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Traditions - General Info

Christmas Plants - Symbolism and Origins

This page was updated on: Monday, December 11, 2017 at: 2:00 pm

Why do we decorate the house with Christmas Plants?

Christmas plants represent a large part of the celebration of Christmas as they carry deep symbolism.

The Christian celebration was indeed superimposed on ancient pagan rituals linked to the celebration of the Winter Solstice, one of the major religious events in the Celtic world.

Many plants used during theses ancient rituals have naturally found their place in modern celebrations.

This because of their symbolism, but also of their appearance.

The plants we use at Christmas

Pagan folks believed that the branches of holly, ivy and mistletoe, they used to decorate their house during the Winter Solstice celebrations, housed the Tree-Spirits.

The sprigs were not only decorative, but also protected the Tree-Spirits during the twelve days following the celebrations of the Winter Solstice.

This was indeed a dangerous time, when the sun disappeared and evil spirits roamed the earth.

This interim period over, they returned the Tree-Spirits to the wild, so they could help Nature waking up slowly and thus ensure a good harvest in the coming months.

Pagans also believed that the Tree-Spirits would turn angry if they were not released in time.

Today, many people still think that it brings bad luck to keep the decorations until after January 5.

Old superstitions die hard!

Today, potted poinsettias are very popular Christmas plants and are widely used to decorate entrance halls and rooms.

Poinsettia started to be used as at Christmas during the 16th century, because their leaves turn crimson red in the middle of December.

However, holly, mistletoe and ivy are the traditional Christmas plants used in the Christmas wreaths.

In the Northern Hemisphere they are mainly associated with spruce sprigs and pine cones.

Other Christian countries blessed with warmer climates use flowers and plants that grow at that time of the year.

Their Christmas plants and flowers include cattail, olive branches, wheat but also poppy, pomegranate and even a species of cactus, known as orchid cactus, which blooms in late December!

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