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Holly
Discover the Christmas custom, story, myth and legend associated with Holly. This festive tradition and Christmas custom, with its familiar symbol and meaning, has evolved over time. But what is the history, meaning and origin of Holly? This article provides facts and information about the history of Holly as a familiar symbol, tradition and custom of our Christmas today. Holly remains green throughout the winter, thus symbolizing renewal.  

What is Holly?
What is Holly? Definition: Holly is defined as a tree or shrub of the genus Ilex. The European species Ilex Aquifolium is best known, having glossy green leaves, with a spiny, waved edge, and bearing berries that turn red or yellow about Michaelmas. The holly is used to adorn churches and houses, at Christmas time, and hence is associated with scenes of good will and rejoicing. It is an evergreen tree, and has a fine grained, heavy, white wood. The American holly is the Ilex opaca
. Commercial holly, called Meserve Holly,  was hybridized by Kathleen Meserve on Long Island, New York in the 1950's. It is hardier than wild forms with brighter berries and glossier leaves. Also, unlike English holly, it can survive temperatures as low -20F.

The Legend of the Holly
According to legend the "crown of thorns" of Jesus Christ was of holly and that the berries turned from white to red after His crucifixion. 

The Origin and History of Holly
Some origins date back to the pagan traditions and customs of the ancients. Other symbols, customs and traditions have specific religious significance to the Christian religion and the Nativity of Jesus Christ. And finally there are many new, non-religious customs which have emerged
due to increased prosperity and the commercialism of the festival in the modern world. The origin and history of Holly is pagan. It was banned in 1647 by the English parliament under Oliver Cromwell due to its pagan connections. Holly was regarded as an excellent form of protection for all manner of things but specifically against evil spirits, poisons, thunder and lightning and the evil eye.

The Christmas Custom & History of Holly - Symbol of Fertility
Evergreen plants, such as Holly, are rooted in pagan
religions, some dating back thousands of years to the Ancient Egyptians. In winter, when everything is brown and dead, evergreen plants, such as Holly, are manifestations of the abiding life within the plant-world, and evergreens may well have been used as sacramental means of contact with the spirit of growth and fertility. Particularly precious would be evergreen plants like Holly, which actually bears fruit in the winter time. Holly was believed to have many healing powers when used as a herb. It has been used for asthma, rheumatism, gout and dropsy.

The History and Origins of Holly - The Celtic Druids
The most celebrated festivals of the Celts and their priests, who were called Druids, were held in honour of the return of the sun which at the winter solstice begins gradually to regain power and to ascend in the horizon. The Druids worshipped the sun which included prayers and offerings to their Sun God to ensure that the sun returned to give them a good summer. The Druids also revered the Ivy and especially Mistletoe. Holly was used by people in Britain to protect their homes from evil spirits. Witches were said to be deterred from entering a house because of the holly's prickly leaves and by its reputation for holiness (the word holly derives from the word holy).

The History of Holly - Superstitions
There are several old superstitions surrounding the holly. Holly was believed to bring bad luck:

  • If Holly is burnt whilst it is still green
  • If the berries are smashed
  • If is brought into the house during the summer

Homemade Kissing Ball
Homemade Christmas Wreath

Holly
Christmas is celebrated worldwide, throughout the Christian population of approximately 2275 million people, but is also celebrated by many non-Christians as a secular, cultural festival. A Christmas custom or tradition is symbolized by a familiar symbol or icon, such as Holly,  have come to represent the spirit and meaning of this special time of the year.

Holly
 

Holly

  • Holly
  • The history, meaning and origin of this familiar symbol
  • Old Customs, Symbols and Traditions
  • Meaning and origin of this traditional Christmas custom
  • History, Facts and information about customs, symbols and traditions
  • Meaning, history and origin of traditional symbols
  • A Religious Christian meaning, Pagan origins or a Modern custom?
  • Holly

Holly

"Merry Christmas, have a happy and prosperous New Year!"

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