Christmas Holly Its evergreen nature means its leaves are more thick skinned than most other flowers and shrubs, giving it an ability to survive the harshness winter. It has become a symbol of the season, having Christmas carols written about it, while it’s also constantly seen on Christmas cards.
Holly berries are an important food for birds, but you wouldn’t want to snack on them – the berries are toxic to humans, and can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Not such a merry Christmas, then. In Christian tradition, the berries are often said to represent the blood spilt by Christ, and the prickly leaves his crown of thorns.
Early Christian calendars mark Christmas Eve as templa exornatur, meaning “churches are decked,” though supposedly Saturnalia celebrators didn’t allow some Christians to hang boughs in honor of Christmas. Christians adopted the holly tradition from Druid, Celtic and Roman traditions, and its symbolism changed to reflect Christian beliefs.
Holly is known for its vibrant red color, which stands out against the starkness of winter. But did you know that it’s also associated with males and is considered to bring men good luck and protection; the female counterpart to holly is ivy. A famous English Christmas carol, “The Holly and the Ivy,” uses the holly symbol to celebrate the birth of Christ.