Around the holiday season, there are several plants that we only see this time of year. Poinsettia, mistletoe, holly… We think of these as “holiday plants“, but do you know the significance of these flora?
The significance behind our most familiar holiday plants are steeped in legend, many having deep Christian ties to Christmas.
Holly: A legend explains that holly plants grew under the footsteps of Jesus Christ; its thorned leaves and bright red berries symbolize his suffering on the cross. Holly is known as ‘Christ’s Thorn’ in some European countries. Holly leaves were once used to treat illnesses but, the plant’s berries are poisonous to consume.
Evergreens: Eleventh century religious plays that told the story of Adam and Eve often featured a “Paradise” tree, which was evergreen. Another take on the legend connects the triangular outline of the tree to the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Today’s most popular Christmas trees include Scotch pine, Virginia pine, white pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, and balsam fir.
Mistletoe: This holiday plant symbolizes a kiss for many of us, bu the ancient Druids thought that mistletoe protected people against evil and used it to produce medicines. Druids would present branches of mistletoe to each other to promote health, happiness and fertility in the new year, and it eventually became a seasonal decoration in the home. As for kissing under a mistletoe branch–that’s linked to the fertility tradition.
Poinsettia: The poinsettia plant is native to Mexico, and was brought to the U.S. by a minister. Mexican legend of the poinsettia says that a poor little girl who had no money for a church offering brought some green plants she found nearby. as a Christmas miracle, the green leaves transformed into red flowers. In Mexico, the poinsettia is known as “flor de la noche buena,” or “Holy Night Flower.”