Floral Traditions in United Kingdom - from Garden of Eden Flower Shop
Posted on December 01 2021
Happy Holidays, for the month of December we travel to most of Europe but specifically the United Kingdom – to the traditions of the evergreens, holly, and ivy!
Holly and ivy are evergreen plants that are closely associated with the festivities. With its shiny green leaves and red berries, the former is a common Christmas decoration and prior to Victorian times the term ‘Christmas tree’ referred to holly.
Beware before considering it as an alternative to the now traditional fir tree though, as it’s considered bad luck to cut down a whole holly tree!
Holly, ivy and other greenery were also used during winter solstice celebrations to ward off evil spirits and celebrate new growth. In pagan times, holly was thought to be the male plant and ivy the female. One old tradition from the Midlands says that whichever plant enters the house first in winter will dictate whether the males or females rule the home for the following year – although bringing either inside before Christmas Eve is again said to be unlucky. So wait until Christmas Day to bring your holly inside!
Holly was an important element in deer parks and old hunting estates – and the name holly still survives in modern place names such as Hollins, Holm Hodder, Hollyoaks and Hollywood – and were important for winter food. In the New Forest, in southern England, holly is still cut down as pony fodder.
The spiny dense canopy of holly also meant that it was useful as protection. It was sometimes planted next to saplings of greater value to provide some protection from grazing animals and it is not unusual to see holly growing next to oaks and other trees, either from deliberate planting or a result of seeds being deposited by birds roosting on the branches above.
Holly has also been thought to protect the home – the holly you put around the door acting as flypaper for fairies, trapping any evil spirits who try to enter.
Ivy, like holly, is an important evergreen edible plant species in UK woodland. One of only five woody climbers, like mistletoe it can form dense growths in canopies that can cause harm to the host. As with mistletoe it is linked with both Christmas and romance. Ivy is unusual among these species in being also associated with death and melancholy as well as rebirth.
Happy Holidays and A Very Happy New Year from the Staff of The Garden of Eden!