Each Christmas age-old traditions are repeated, filling us with a sense of wonder and nostalgia. Some of these traditions, from songs and stories to customs and decor, date back centuries. In some cases, like with the use of holly to decorate, the meaning has changed over time. Prior to the Christmas traditions we associate with it today, holly was used in ancient Celtic, pagan, Roman and Druid ceremonies and mythology. With such rich traditions behind this unassuming plant, the floral experts at Norton’s Florist decided to spend some time discussing holly, its meaning and how to include it in your decorating as you prepare for the holidays this winter.
What is Holly?
Holly is an evergreen shrub-like tree that can grow up to 10-15 feet tall. Its thick, leathery dark green leaves have noticeably serrated edges with bright red berries (on the female versions of the plant) that are toxic when consumed by humans (and most household pets). Able to thrive in sunlight or shade with well-drained soil, this versatile shrub or tree is easy to grow. Branches of this festive plant have symbolized various ideas for different cultures around the world and throughout history. Due in part to its evergreen quality, holly is often used to decorate for many winter holidays and celebrations.
Holly Berries on Snowy Branch
Holly Wreath on an Old Door
Wreath of Holly
What Does Holly Symbolize?
The unusual holly tree has held symbolic meaning to many cultures throughout history. In ancient Rome, holly was considered good luck and was given to newlyweds as wedding gifts. The ancient Druids believed holly branches protected them from harm and would decorate their homes with boughs of holly. Even ancient Chinese legend used holly branches, leaves, and berries to decorate their temples and great halls for the winter New Year’s celebrations.
Today, Christian tradition promotes the idea that holly represents the crown of thorns worn by Christ at his death. The red berries symbolize his blood spilt in sacrifice for his followers and the evergreen nature of the plant to be a metaphor for eternal life after death. Due to these variations on the symbolism of holly over centuries, this tree has remained an important decorative element for centuries in winter months.
How Can We Decorate with Holly?
We love to see holly included in Christmas floral arrangements and other holiday decor. It’s prickly, but the berries and variegation add a great touch to holiday designs! 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, as we’ve done in our Forest Park Holiday centerpiece as well as our Rustic Holiday Centerpiece. We find it to be an excellent accent in many of our holiday floral designs, like our Make Merry Christmas 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.
Forest Park Holiday Centerpiece
Rustic Holiday Centerpiece
Make Merry Bouquet
How you decorate for Christmas each year is undoubtedly a tradition in its own right, and most likely, you find yourself including sprigs of holly somewhere in your home. If not, consider mixing it up this year and starting new traditions that are actually quite old. For more tips, tricks and creative ideas about decorating with holly, talk to the floral experts at Norton’s Florist. We’re here to help you make your holiday season merry and bright!