As the holidays approach, we begin to see signs of tradition everywhere we look. Part of the magic of Christmas is the nostalgia certain songs, images and decor can bring to mind. One of the most traditional aspects associated with Christmastime is the holly plant. This evergreen’s inclusion in winter celebrations is not a new idea; in fact, it dates back to ancient times and has been revered by many cultures as sacred or magical. Today we use it in much of our holiday decorating, and the floral experts at Conklyn’s Florist are here to show you why!
What is Holly?
Holly is a shrub-like tree that can grow up to 10-15 feet tall. Its thick, leathery leaves have spiky edges like a serrated knife, and the female versions of the tree produce red berries. As an evergreen, this tree is a perfect nesting spot for birds, as the leaves provide cover and protection from predators during winter months. The berries, while toxic to humans and most household pets, are a food source for many winter birds like robins. Not only are the leaves and berries great for decorating during the holidays, but the wood is excellent for making furniture, and is even used for piano keys!
Holly Berries with Snow
Holly Wreath on Old Door
What Does Holly Symbolize?
Throughout history, holly has symbolized many things to many cultures. The ancient Romans believed the boughs brought good luck, so they would give holly wreaths to newlyweds to bless their future together. Romans also used holly prevalently in their celebration of Saturnalia, a winter festival to honor Saturn the Sun God. They found it to be a protection from evil spirits and to ward off lightning, as did ancient Druids and Celtic and Norse cultures.
The ancient Chinese used holly as decor in their temples and great halls for their winter New Year’s celebrations. Today, Christianity has adopted the holly tree as a symbol of their religion. The spiky leaves symbolize the crown of thorns worn by Christ, while the berries represent his drops of blood. The evergreen nature of the tree is a metaphor for eternal life. It’s easy to see why so many cultures throughout history have held the holly tree up as a mystical, symbolic representation of their winter festivals and celebrations.
How Can We Decorate with Holly?
Adding holly to your Christmas decor is simple and there are many ways to do so. Place boughs of holly leaves and berries along the fireplace mantle or in windowsills. Add sprigs of holly to vases, hang on the Christmas tree, or even wear them as a pin or in your hair. Wreaths made from holly are especially beautiful on front doors and hanging from windows to welcome the holidays. We love to include them as accents in our holiday bouquets, as seen in our Deck the Holly Ornament bouquet. Our Merry Beautiful bouquet uses holly berries for texture throughout the design, and our Mercury Glass Bowl centerpiece displays holly leaves as prominent greenery for a festive look.
Deck the Holly Ornament Bouquet
Merry Beautiful Bouquet
Mercury Glass Bowl Centerpiece
When you decorate with holly during the winter holiday season, you maintain age-old traditions that have changed and evolved over centuries. Giving a beautiful holly-filled bouquet to a loved one this season is a great way to share this tradition with those you love. Plus, holly is the official birth “flower” of December, so birthday bouquets can include holly, as well! For more creative ways to decorate with holly, or to learn more about its role in ancient traditions, talk to the floral designers at Conklyn’s Florist. We’re happy to help you find new and interesting ways to include holly in your Christmas celebration this season!