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Christmas Trees, Holly and Mistletoe: The Festive Greens of Winter

Posted Jul 01 2011 1:31pm

December 16, 2010 by Danielle Charles

Looking out my window this morning, the world is, for all purposes, white. Indeed, it looks as though I am seeing the world through a black and white lens as I scan across the landscape – the ground is white with freshly fallen snow; the mountains etched with the fine grey lines of the leafless trees;  the sky a dull silver with just the palest glimmer where the sun is climbing the horizon.

I fail to see anything of color at all, in fact,  until my eye comes upon the large spruce across the way, looking vibrantly green and quite majestic through the thin mist of falling snowflakes. While it isn’t the verdant green of a summer’s pasture or the pale virescent shimmer of spring’s first unfolding leaves – it is a refreshing sight to my color (and life) starved eyes none the less. Something alive and awake in this sleepy, snowy landscape!

To me, there is no wonder that these persevering signs of greenery became such festive associations with the darkest days of the year.  It may seem like idle tradition to decorate a tree, kiss under the mistletoe or hang a holly wreath on your door – but I think these small gestures come from a deep and ancient place within us. This is a place that is never quite certain if the cycle of life will continue, never knowing for sure if the sun will turn on its course and draw the green life out of the earth again with its warm embrace.

So we fill our homes with sprigs of whatever green life we can find, not only to bring the semblance of the outdoors and plant life into our indoor winter lives, but as signs of hope to tide us over until the days begin to lengthen again with the promise of Spring.  And of course, we still sense the awe and fascination that our ancestors felt for these plants that managed to exist outside of the rhythms and constraints of the earthly seasons; plants that managed to thrive and remain green when all the rest of earth was sleeping.  As such, they were and are symbols of immortality, and hold all the enchantment and magic of being such.

So in the spirit of the season, of moving into the darkest days of our year, why not deck the halls with boughs of holly?  Hang a mistletoe in the doorway to steal a kiss under, decorate a tree with the whole family and wrap a garland over your mantle piece. Fill your entire home with the green treasures of these ancient, magical plants.  Apart from simply being festive, they fill our spirits with a sense of magic and the promise of another plentiful year.

Posted in Seasons, Winter | 4 Comments

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  1. Hey Danielle,
    The evergreens are fascinating aren’t they. I love the way they hold the green energy for the land and for us through the winter. We didn’t get a Christmas tree this year as the one we’ve had for the last few Christmases died but I really miss having one. The house just doesn’t feel very festive without it.
    Your pictures helped though, looks like you too live in a very beautiful part of the world. Maybe one day we’ll get to visit each other :)
    Love for a very magical and happy solstice, Christmas and New Year,
    Lucinda xxx

    • on December 19, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Reply Danielle Charles

      I’m glad the pictures helped to infuse a little evergreen festivity into your day :) How fun would it be to get to visit each other! I imagine we would have lots of fun chatting about our favorite herbs and wandering about the countryside. Hopefully someday it will come to be :)

      Here’s to a very wonderful and joyful holiday and a very rejuvantive winter!

      Lots of love,

  2. Now I have to go and find some pine branches, I always used to go find pine and holly branches and make a quick door wreath with them, which usually entails gathering them together and tying with a big red ribbon, simples! If I don’t get time then I’m going to pick a bunch of rosemary and bay stems from the garden and do the same, we don’t have to use the traditional evergreen herbs for decorating, any evergreen herbs are okay, right?

    Your post made me think of other ways of bringing the evergreen herbs into the home at this time of year, and I remembered a hot Toddy recipe that James Wong made with fir needles, oranges eucalyptus honey and echinacea infused rum. Here’s the link if you haven’t seen the programme in the states it’s the first recipe on the page it’s very warming and different!

    I agree it would be lovely to all meet up one day and share our love of herbs, lets hope it happens in the future :)

    Herby hugs – Debs x

    • on January 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Reply Danielle Charles

      Hi Debs,

      I’m a bit late in replying to you I’m afraid – but I think any evergreen plant falls into the festive category! Anything that can bring a little green life and sense of the outdoors into the home is just perfect, and all the more so if it smells as wonderful as rosemary or bay :) I even bring in pine cones and dried seed pods, which definitely aren’t green, but still infuse the house with a sense of wildness and plant magic. (I read recently that another reason people traditionally brought greenery indoors in the winter was to provide a comfortable space for the nature spirits seeking refuge from the cold – I rather like that!).

      Your wreath sounds so lovely, and simple is always good! I tried my hand at making a garland this year, as you can see in the pictures, but all the needles started to fall off by the 3rd day! I might try again and actually research how to do it right this time!

      Thanks for sharing that link! All the recipes sound so delightful – especially the hot toddy (just perfect for a chilly night admiring the festive indoor greenery!).

      XOXO Danielle

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  • The Teacup Chronicles is a seasonally minded blog about health and wellness, written by a clinical herbalist and self proclaimed kitchen witch. It contains herb-lore, delicious recipes, dietary suggestions and more to encourage vibrant health, balance and delight in every season. Grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair and join me in exploring just how gratifying and delicious cultivating good health can be.
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