Christmas Flower Folklore
As the holiday season brings about visions of sugarplums dancing merrily in our heads, and silver bells ring in a variety of Christmas delights, colorful decorations begin to appear around every corner. In the midst of twinkling lights, red-nosed reindeer, and jolly old men in red suits, fragrant and blossoming flowers in the colors of the season surround us with their beauty. Christmastime is steeped in a variety of traditions, and many Christmas flowers carry legends all their own. Many of these legends center on Christianity, though others are actually pagan in origin.
The legend of the poinsettia tells of two young children named Maria and Pablo. Each year, the small Mexican village where Maria and Pablo lived celebrated the Christ child’s birth with a beautiful Christmas festival. The two children were saddened because they did not have the money to buy beautiful gifts to leave at the manger scene for Jesus. One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo stopped to gather some weeds on the way to the festival. The weeds didn’t appear to be much, and the other children in the village teased them for offering such a small and useless gift. Maria and Pablo, however, proceeded to place their meager offering around the manger, knowing it was the only gift they could afford. To the astonishment of all who watched, the pitiful weeds miraculously bloomed into star-shaped red flowers with stunning green foliage. While variations of this story exist, the miracle of the poinsettia bloom remains the same.
A variety of legends surround the holly plant. This shiny evergreen plant is said to symbolize fertility and everlasting life. The Druids believed that it was favored by the sun because it remained green all year. Thus, they believed the holly plant was sacred.
Christian legends tell of the holly plant miraculously sprouting leaves out of season to hide the baby Jesus from Herod’s soldiers. Still, another Christian legend tells of a young boy who placed a crown of holly branches on the head of the Christ child. As the crown touched Jesus’ head, the branches sprouted sparkling holly leaves, and bright red berries appeared where the boy’s tears fell.
Many superstitions also surround the plant. The holly plant is thought to bring protection and good luck to men. It was also often used to ward off evil spirits, witches, goblins, lightening, and spells.
While the holly plant is said to be good luck for men, ivy is said to bring protection and good luck to women. The ivy plant is thought to be a symbol of fertility and eternal life. When combined with holly, it is said to bring good luck to relationships and symbolize true love and undying affection.
Mistletoe is surrounded in folklore dating back centuries before Christ. The Druids believed the plant possessed healing powers and could cure infertility, among many other conditions. Mistletoe has no roots and attaches itself to a tree. Without the tree, the mistletoe plant would die. This beautifully mysterious plant has been celebrated as a symbol of fertility and the coming of winter for many centuries.
Similar to the legend of the poinsettia, the story of the Christmas rose tells of a young girl who desired to bring a beautiful gift to the baby Jesus. Unable to afford such riches as the frankincense, gold, and myrrh she saw others bestowing upon the Christ child, the young girl sat down and wept in the snow. Legend has it that an angel passed over her and smote the ground where she cried. From the child’s tears sprang a bush bearing fragrant white roses. Thus, the child presented the Christ child with a beautifully pure gift from her heart.
The legend of this Christmas flower dates back to Greek mythology and the unrequited love of a timid nymph named Amaryllis. Amaryllis had fallen deeply in love with a shepherd by the name of Alteo. The shepherd wanted nothing more than to possess a beautiful flower so unique that another could not be found in any corner of the world. Following the instructions of the Oracle of Delphi, Amaryllis, dressed in flowing white gowns, appeared at the doorstep of her beloved shepherd each night for thirty nights and pierced her heart with a golden arrow. When Alteo finally opened the door on the final night, he found a beautifully unique crimson flower that had sprung from the blood of the shy nymph’s heart.
The Christmas Wreath
Primarily created from evergreen twigs, the Christmas wreath is often decorated with pinecones, holly, candles, and other decorations. The evergreen leaves and circular shape symbolize Christ’s promise of everlasting life, while the bright red berries and ribbons serve as a festive tiding of good will.
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