A Short History of 4 Holiday Plants

There are certain plants that we associate with the holidays. But if you’re like most people, you might not know why these plants are associated with the holiday season. But symbolism usually comes with a story. Here are the very short histories of four plants associated with the holidays:
1.    Yule Log—The tradition of burning a Yule log in the fireplace is hundred of years old. Modern folklore claims that the Yule log first made its appearance in the 1600s, and its burning not only provided warmth but also prosperity and protection from evil for one year. It also has roots in paganism, when it was burned during winter solstice and Midwinter festivities.
2.    Mistletoe—A part of European folklore since before the spread of Christianity, mistletoe has been said to bestow life and fertility, protect against poison, and function as an aphrodisiac. The tradition of using mistletoe as a Christmas decoration can be traced back to midsummer and winter solstice celebrations, for which mistletoe was gathered and hung. The kissing tradition of mistletoe began as far back as the Greek festival of Saturnalia.
3.    Holly—Pagan in origin, Holly was once used by the Romans at the festival of Saturnalia as an offering. It was also used as a decoration during wintertime, a tradition later adopted by Christians. Many believed it warded off evil spirits, and it was a symbol of fertility and eternal life. Some also believe that the “thorny crown” Jesus Christ was forced to wear during his crucifixion was a crown of holly.
4.    Poinsetta—Certainly the youngest of all the holiday plants, the Poinsettia didn’t make its way into the United States until the 1800s. Indigenous to Mexico and Central America, it was first brought to the U.S. by Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett. Known as Flores de Noche Buena, or flowers of the holy night, in Mexico, one legend tells of a girl who could only give weeds as a gift to Jesus on Christmas Eve. When she brought the offering into the church, however, they bloomed into Poinsettias. Some also claim the plant is a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem.


About Alex Holt

I am a local artist from Brooklyn, NY. I love art, design, books, photography, gardening and blogging.
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