We follow so much tradition during the holiday season, from the foods we eat, the songs we sing and the way we decorate. One of the most frequently seen aspects of holiday decor includes the holly plant. Not only do we use it in much of our Christmas decorating, we even sing songs about it! Including holly in your holiday decorating is a great way to infuse a festive spirit into your home. But what, exactly, is holly? And why are we so keen to maintain the tradition surrounding it? The floral experts at Bosland’s Flower Shop have some great answers to these questions, and they may surprise you.
What is Holly?
Holly is an evergreen tree that boasts shiny green leaves and bright red berries. The leaves are thick and leathery, with serrated edges that give them sharp points. A waxy finish leaves them looking bright all year round. The berries, while gorgeous for decorating, are toxic to humans and most household pets, but the leaves have been used historically for medicinal purposes. Holly can grow as a shrub or, in some varieties, as a tree up to 10-15 feet tall. The sharp leaves and evergreen nature of these trees make them ideal for birds nesting in the winter. They can hide among the leaves and be protected from predators.
Holly Berries on Snowy Branch
What Does Holly Symbolize?
Since ancient times, various civilizations and cultures have associated rich meaning with holly plants. Celtic mythology symbolizes the plant with peace and goodwill, while ancient Norse tradition found the plant’s resistance to lightning a reason to associate it with Taranis and Thor, gods of thunder. Ancient Romans gave holly wreaths to newlyweds for good luck, and it has played a key role in decorating and celebrating festivals for Saturnalia (the winter festival of Saturn), Chinese New Year, and the pagan winter solstice celebration. In more recent history, Christians have adopted the plant as part of the Christmas tradition. The sharp leaves represent Christ’s crown of thorns, the berries his blood, and the evergreen nature of the tree as a metaphor for eternal life. Throughout history, holly has been recognized as an important plant full of symbolism and tradition.
How Can We Decorate with Holly?
We love to see holly included in Christmas floral arrangements and other holiday decor. You’ll find boughs of holly adorning fireplace mantles and sprigs of it in vases throughout homes. Hang a holly wreath on your front door or include holly in your centerpiece at your family meal. We find it to be an excellent accent in many of our holiday floral designs, like our Deck the Holly Ornament and our Sweet Amaryllis bouquet, adding festive Christmas spirit to our lovely arrangements. When you think about decorating with holly, remember that mistletoe is a close cousin to holly and boasts similar red berries.
Deck the Holly Ornament Bouquet
Sweet Amaryllis Bouquet
Enjoy the holidays with a little more spirit and tradition when you include holly in your decor. Knowing where it comes from and how it was revered in other cultures around the world and throughout history can give your holiday decorating new meaning. For more creative decorating ideas or to learn more about our floral arrangements with holly, talk to the designers at Bosland’s Flower Shop. We’re glad to share our knowledge and expertise with you to make this season merry and bright.