My Vintage Garden - Yuletide Holly
inDecember 18, 2012 - 2:14pm
“My Vintage Garden” celebrates gardens, nature and flowers in antiques, collectibles and jewelry. Included may be intriguing historical information, curious bits of folklore and a few useful gardening tips. Flowers have inspired art and design since ancient times, and their beauty, symbolism and sentimental meaning make our treasured collectibles even more precious.
For most of us, holly is linked with the Christmas season. Holly not only remains green throughout the winter, but bears fruit in the form of bright red berries. Holly has been a part of winter celebrations since ancient times, valued for its ability to live through the cold, barren winter and for its beauty in the darkest time of the year.
Decking the halls with boughs of holly seems to have its roots in the Roman feast of Saturnalia, a week-long celebration of the winter solstice. Saturn was the Roman god of agriculture and time, and holly was his sacred plant. The nights are longest at the winter solstice, and the celebrations encouraged the return of the sun, bringing life to the fields and crops. Holly symbolized the triumph of life when all else in nature appeared dead.
The Romans also gave gifts of holly wreaths as a gesture of friendship and good luck in the coming year. Holly was also believed to have other magical properties as Pliny the Elder wrote that holly could protect a home from lightening and counteract poisoning.
Saturnalia was celebrated from about 250 BC into the early Christian times. The early church banned Saturnalia because of its pagan ties and forbade the use of greenery for decorations during the holiday. However, many people continued to celebrate the season with holly and festivities. As Christian numbers increased, many of the old customs remained, but took on new Christian meaning.
Holly also played an important part in Celtic and Norse mythology. As early as 300 BC, the Celts revered the Holly King, who ruled the winter months, and the Oak king, who ruled the summer. Like the Romans, the early Celts valued holly as a plant that could withstand the harsh winter. To Celtic societies holly also represented growth and fertility. They wore sprigs of holly in their hair. and the adorned their houses with holly during the winter months.
Because of its resilience and thorny nature, the Celts believed that holly had strong protective powers. Holly could shield a home from witchcraft, sickness and malevolent spirits. Although one was allowed to cut holly leaves and branches, felling or killing a holly tree left one vulnerable to bad luck and evil spirits. The Norse also used holly in the midwinter feast of Yule. Holly was associated with Thor, and could give protection against lightening and storms.
A more practical reason to conserve holly trees was that Northern European people harvested holly branches as winter fodder for livestock. Holly leaves were nutritious winter feed, and some farmers even ground the holly to make the prickly leaves more palatable to their animals.
When Christianity arrived in Northern Europe, the church initially forbade decorating with holly or bringing holly braches into the home, but eventually celebrations with holly were endowed with Christian symbolism. The holly still brightens our winter holidays and adds color to the woods and gardens in winter.
The shops of Ruby Lane are filled with holly and I thank the shops below for allowing me to feature their photos. No matter how you celebrate your winter holidays, I wish you all peace, good health and the joy of friendship and family through the winter and the coming year.
Gina's Fabulous Fancies - Ruby Red Bowl Cut to Clear with Holly Design
Linda Lou's Designer Jewelry - Holly Berry Bracelet
Seasons Past - Royal Albert 1940's December Flower of the Month Cup & Saucer
Aphrodite's Adornments - LIZ CLAIBORNE Vintage Heart&Holly Pendant w/Enamel & Rhinestones
Hidden in the Hills - Trio of West German Holly & Glitter Glass Ornaments
Copperton Lane Antiques and Collectibles - Pair Lefton Christmas Holly Footed Coffee Mugs
Clara’s Chic Boutique-Vintage - Christmas Apron with Kitty’s Kittens Cat Holly Border Print
LooLuu's - Six Vintage Printed Cotton Xmas Napkins
Written by Suzan Miller
SuzansTreasures on Ruby Lane
About me: I have had the Ruby Lane shop “SuzansTreasures” for over 10 years. I have been involved with antiques and collectible business all my life, as my mother, grandparents and great-grandmother all had antique shops. I also have a life-long love of gardening. I am a member of several gardening societies and am a qualified flower show judge.