Christmas is upon us and everything is looking merry and bright. We wanted to share some of that Christmas joy by telling you about a few of our favourite botanical Christmas stories.
The Christmas tree
Once upon a time, the Christmas tree was introduced as a new Christmas custom. But have you ever wondered why it is that we put a decorated fir tree in our living room? One version of how the Christmas tree gained its popularity is due to the Christians. They believe that an evergreen tree symbolises eternal life by remembering Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. Unfortunately, the true origin of putting up Christmas trees is not completely clear.
Evergreen plants and trees actually also had a special meaning long before the advent of Christianity. People used to hang evergreen boughs (pine, spruce or fir) over their doors and windows during winter. They believed that it would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits and illness.
This may be one of our favourite (and most romantic) Christmas tales, the Mistletoe kissing tradition. The plant’s romantic connotation most likely started with the Celtic Druids. Because Mistletoe could blossom even during the frozen winter, the Druids came to view it as a sacred symbol of fertility. The Druids administered it to humans and animals alike in the hope of restoring fertility. They also saw the Mistletoe as a symbol of love and peace. They believed so strongly in its powers that when enemies would meet each other beneath a mistletoe they would drop their weapons and had a truce for a day. That’s probably one of the reasons why we still hang Mistletoe on our ceilings during Christmas. It’s a sign of friendship and goodwill, which is completely in line with the Christmas spirit.
Mistletoe’s associations with fertility and vitality continued through the Middle Ages, and by the 18th century, it had become widely incorporated into Christmas celebrations. The kissing tradition appears to have first caught on among servants in England before spreading to the middle classes. As part of the early custom, men were allowed to steal a kiss from any woman caught standing under the mistletoe, and refusing was viewed as bad luck. Yet another tradition says to pluck a single berry from the mistletoe with each kiss and to stop kissing once they were all gone.
The Christmas Rose & the Christmas flower
You have probably heard about the Christmas Rose and the Christmas flower. But why were they given those names? Let’s start with the Christmas Rose: The Helleborus, not actually a rose, is one of the only plants that blooms naturally in the winter and in early spring. For this reason, people thought the plants had magical powers. When blooms appeared before Christmas, it was believed that they presaged a bountiful year ahead. Another ancient story tells that all Helleborus plants woke up from their hibernation when Jesus was born. The Christmas rose forgot to get back to sleep and ever since the plant blooms every year to announce the winter.
Moving on to the Christmas Flower, the poinsettia. The name ‘Christmas flower’ is actually quite deceiving. The bright petals of the poinsettia – the eye catchers – are just the upper leaves of the plant. The actual flowers grow in the middle of each leaf bunch and have a green or yellow colour. The poinsettia got its Christmassy name due to an old Mexican legend. It’s a story about a girl who had no money to buy a gift for the baby Jesus at Christmas Eve services. She was reassured that any gift – big or small – would be just fine. So she picked a bouquet of weeds on her way to the church. When she got to the church, the weeds transformed into beautiful red poinsettias – the Christmas flower.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Florismart team.