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From the Christmas Gleaner archives: December 22, 1971

From the Christmas Gleaner archives

52 years ago

December 22, 1971

‘Christmas greenery’ comes from ancients:

Flowers burst into bloom and trees and shrubs were green with new leaves on the night of the saviour’s birth, so legend says. Down through the ages, certain flowers and greens have held an honoured place in the lore of Christmas – the holly and the ivy, mistletoe, rosemary, the Christmas rose, the thorn tree.

Ancient peoples believed that mistletoe had powers to ward off evil or cure a variety of illnesses. Druid priests of Britain, long ago, believed that mistletoe should be cut with a golden knife, then hung over doorways as a protection from evil. The Greeks, too, used it to ward off evil.

 

One of the many legends surrounding the poinsettia tells of a poor Mexican girl who, having no gift of value, humbly placed some roadside weeds at the foot of a statue representing the Virgin and Child. Instantly, the weeds became scarlet blossoms and thus, so the legend says, the poinsettia was created.

Rosemary, the symbol of constancy, was at one time widely used in England as a Christmas decoration. During the Victorian era, it lost popularity and is now seldom, if ever, seen as part of the Yuletide greenery.

An old story says that the fragrance of rosemary was given to it when Mary placed the Christ child’s garments on this shrub.

Like mistletoe, the brightly berried holly was early credited with magical and medical powers. It could even, legend says, tell girls the name of their future husband.

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