History of Christmas Plants

A History Of Christmas Plants

What is 
mistletoe 
and why do we kiss under it?
Ever wondered why we use 
pine trees 
for Christmas trees?
Or why we decorate with 
holly?

We were curious too, so we did some research. Have a great Christmas and enjoy this Christmas plant trivia. 

Kissing Under Mistletoe

The history of mistletoe and christmas

Mistletoe is a parasite plant, but not one of the bad ones. They are in fact useful and their flowers, fruit, nectar and leaves are highly nutritious. Koala, possums and birds all depend on mistletoe. 

The Smithsonian has a very good history of mistletoe. One story has it associated with the grandson of the Norse god Thor. Baldur was convinced that every plant and animal wanted to kill him. Poor widdle Baldur needed his mummy and his wife to intervene. They spoke to every living thing on his behalf and asked them to leave him alone. The one plant they forgot to ask was the mistletoe. Which shows you, when it comes to gardening, the devil is in the details. Baldur was subsequently stabbed in the chest by an arrow made of mistletoe.

And the lesson was learned. Never forget the mistletoe.

We kiss beneath it to remember what Baldur’s wife and mother forgot.

The first book version of “A Christmas Carol” in 1843 has illustrations of kissing under the mistletoe. This is where the popularity may have come from.

Deck The Halls With Holly

Holly is said to represent the crown Jesus wore when he was crucified. The berries represent the bloodshed.

Another story is that it is one of the plants that remain green year-round (especially in the Northern hemisphere) and the greenery reminded people of the coming spring.

In Norse mythology, holly was thought to ward off lightning strikes.

Like a lot for things we say and do, the precise reason that holly is central to Christmas has been obscured by time. My own thoughts on this are, it just looks Christmasy. Scientific? No. Undeniable. Yes.

Pine And Fir Christmas Trees

Christmas tress

You know the saying, “since Jesus was a boy”? Well, we’ve been decorating our homes with pine and fir a lot longer than that. Romans brought evergreens trees into their temples and pagans have used them for longer than that. In the depths of a drab winter, before electric lighting and Gameboys were invented, a little colour went a long way.

It turns out that a little Christmas cheer has always been good, even before Christmas was a thing.  

We can trace the history of the Christmas tree back to Germany. In the  8th century an English missionary, Saint Boniface, felled an oak when he came across pagans worshipping it. According to the pagans, Boniface should have been struck down by lightning. When Thor failed to zap Boniface, he took this as an opportunity to convert them to Christianity.  Then the legend has it that a fir tree grew out the oak and become the symbol of Christ.

It wasn’t until the 1840s that it became popular to decorate the Christmas tree and we have Queen Victoria to thank for that. Unfortunately, Queen Vic is better remembered for her puritanism and spreading haemophilia in European royalty by marrying her cousin.

Poinsettia

According to Wikipedia the plant’s connection with Christmas began in the 16th century in Mexico.

Legend tells of a girl, commonly called Pepita or María, who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. She was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias.

The wonderful thing about poinsettia is that it can grow well on the Gold Coast. It flowers prolifically just as we come into Christmas. And it looks like the Christmas personified.

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