econintersect.com
       
  

FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.



posted on 25 December 2015

The Holly And The Ivy: How Pagan Practices Found Their Way Into Christmas

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Peter Glaves, Northumbria University, Newcastle

Every year, almost without thinking about it, we incorporate certain plant species into out Christmas celebrations. The most obvious is the Christmas tree, linked historically in England to Prince Albert - but its use in British homes goes back to at least 1761 when Charlotte wife of George III put up a tree at the royal court.

(It's probably worth noting here that the first artificial-brush Christmas tree was produced using the same machinery that was originally designed to produce toilet brushes.)

Three other plants are intimately associated with Christmas: holly, ivy and mistletoe - and in all cases their ecology is closely linked to their cultural uses.

Of all the trees that are in the wood

Holly, like ivy and mistletoe, is a winter green and the bringing of green vegetation into the home is closely linked to rebirth both of spring and of Christ. It is the holly that most closely bears the crown - its spiny leaves and red berries link to Jesus' crown of thorns. But such a link does not explain why holly is linked to Christmas rather than Easter.

King's College Choir: The Holly and the Ivy.

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 browse for the ponies.

The spiny dense canopy of holly also meant that it was useful as protection. It was sometimes planted next to saplings of valuable tree species 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.

Holly and Ivy are often linked together at Christmas; this goes back much further, to the idea of the holly (male) and ivy (female) being burnt together at the pagan festival of Beltane.

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.

Misteltoe: fertility plant

European mistletoe Viscum album is a partial parasite; it draws some nutrition from the host tree but also makes its own energy through photosynthesis. It is unusual in being a parasitic species that was deliberately spread by humans as it was thought to encourage fruiting in orchard trees. Pliny believed that mistletoe seeds had to be eaten by birds to germinate, indeed the name mistletoe means dung on a stick.

Mistletoe is most often associated with love, romance, courtship and the snog at the Christmas party. Its early associations are rather more sexual and when you look at its distinctive shape it is fairly easy to see why. Mistletoe has pairs of woody short stems coming off at right angles with two or more whitish ball-like berries at the junction of the stems. The berries when squashed secrete a white sticky liquid.

Pucker up! Maksym Gorpenyuk

Most people associate mistletoe with orchards, but can grow on a wider range of tree species provided they have a fairly soft bark. Apple is the most common host species, but it is also found on limes, hawthorn and poplar. The 1970 and 1990 Botanical Society of the Britain and Ireland (BSBI) indicate that the decline in number of orchards and changes in management has had an impact on mistletoe abundance. More recent surveys indicate possible range expansion in the east of England. There is a need for more survey work and you can take part by submitting your records of mistletoe here.

Mistletoe grows in the canopy of trees, with no roots or link to the earth and it remains green in winter when the rest of the tree has died, With such unearthly vitality has easy to understand why mistletoe has been associated with magical properties. It is one of the few pre-Christian examples of plant magic to survive. Many believe mistletoe and poinsettias to be poisonous. Southern European varieties contain some toxins but UK varieties are less toxic and there are no known recent incidents of poisoning. It is strange that for a plant perceived to be toxic to have confectionary named after it. The Celts believed that mistletoe was an all-healing plant - and it has now been discovered to contain anti-tumour compounds.

So when you put up your wreaths of holly and ivy and take a kiss under the mistletoe remember you are taking part in some historic and less historic traditions and celebrate the natural history that is part of Christmas.

The ConversationPeter Glaves, Enterprise Fellow, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing










Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.



You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.





Econintersect Contributors


search_box

Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF


The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.


Take a look at what is going on inside of Econintersect.com
Main Home
Analysis Blog
The Problem With Obamacare Is That It Did Little To Reduce Overall Healthcare Spending
Joan Robinson’s Critique of Marginal Utility Theory
News Blog
Free Autographed Copies Of Frank Li's New Book Available - If You Act Fast
Most Women Inventors Come From America
Earnings And Economic Reports: Week Starting 12 December 2016
The U.S. Is Home To The Most Unicorns
Why Britain's Public Finances Will Suffer If Brexit Reduces Migration
Working From Home Is Still Rare In The United States
What We Read Today 10 December 2016
The Last Bucket Catch
Joe Sixpack's Situation in 3Q2016: The Average Joe Is Better Off
Why Are Some People More Delinquent On Loans Than Others? - Part 1
Gravity Returns To San Francisco Housing Market
Violent Bond Selloff: An Eye-Opening Perspective
Infographic Of The Day: Identity Theft: You Should Be Worried
Investing Blog
Natural Gas Prices Are Headed Higher In 2017
The New Art Of Utility Investing
Opinion Blog
Is Commercial Real Estate Facing A Day Of Reckoning?
The US Has A Regime-Uncertainty Problem
Precious Metals Blog
Silver Prices Rebounded Today: Where They Are Headed
Live Markets
09Dec2016 Market Close: Wall Street Closes On A New High, Trump Sugar High, Crude Prices Testing Resistance, US Dollar Melts Higher
Amazon Books & More






.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government



Crowdfunding ....






























 navigate econintersect.com

Blogs

Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day
Weather

Newspapers

Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government
     

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed
Google+
Facebook
Twitter
Digg

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution

Contact

About

  Top Economics Site

Investing.com Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved