“Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la la la la la”
In many Western cultures, holly is a traditional Christmas decoration, used especially in wreaths. Many of the hollies are highly decorative, and it’s believed that it and the green ivy that is usually used alongside it in decorating is why the colors red and green have come to be representative of Christmas. But not many people can trace the history of this colorful plant.
The Druids are believed to have been the first ones to make holly a special plant. They viewed it as a sacred plant, designed to keep the earth beautiful even in the harshest of conditions. When they went into the forest to watch priests cutting mistletoe, another plant they considered sacred, they wore sprigs of holly in their hair.
Romans gave holly wreaths as gifts and decorated images of Saturn with holly during their Saturnalia festival. Centuries later, while other Romans continued their pagan worship, Christians were celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. To avoid persecution from the Romans, however, they decked their homes with Saturnalia holly. As Christian numbers increased and their customs prevailed, holly lost its pagan association and instead became a symbol of Christmas.
A variety of new traditions then sprang up around holly. In West England, it is said sprigs of holly around a young girl’s bed on Christmas Eve will keep away goblins. In Germany, a piece of holly that has been used in church decorations is regarded as a charm against lightning. In England, British farmers put sprigs of holly on their beehives in celebration of bees that hummed in honor of the Christ Child at his birth.
Today families around the world still deck their halls with boughs of holly during the holiday season.