Holly, symbol of Christmas

Special properties were attributed to this plant long before the birth of Christ, and the Celts and Romans used it during their holidays and on special occasions.

When Christmas comes, all homes, streets and businesses are decorated for the occasion with glass balls, strings of lights and colored tinsel. Another element that is gradually becoming more important during the Christmas holidays is the holly, a species that today is on the verge of extinction, but around which legends revolve, dating back many centuries. Holly is often confused with mistletoe because both species have green leaves and small, round fruits; but although both plants are closely associated with Christmas, they have little in common with each other. For example, holly has a long tradition in Europe, and mistletoe is especially used these days in North and Latin America after its introduction in the 19th century. So much so that it is customary that when a couple meets under a mistletoe leaf, they must kiss because of the powers of fertility and happiness attributed to this plant. The history of the holly itself begins long before Christmas itself appeared, a holiday with which this plant is associated for life and around which many traditions and legends can be found.

Origin of Holly as a Christmas Symbol

The peoples and tribes who lived in Europe centuries before the rise of Christianity already gave holly a special place in their ceremonies and rituals. For example, The Celts believed that this plant had magical traditions and used it in their holidays and sacred rituals., as well as for protection from evil spirits. One way to do this is to build a wreath using bright green holly leaves. This town also gave birth to a legend known as “The Oak King and the Holly King”, told at the beginning of winter. It stated that both monarchs were brothers and enemies, since the reign of one began when the reign of the other ended.

Holly has a wonderful tradition in Europe.Holly has a wonderful tradition in Europe.

The Oak King reigned during the hot and sunny seasons when its leaves were bright green. However, since the winter solstice, when the oak tree lost its leaves, it was King Holly who took control, keeping its leaves intact despite the cold and darkness of winter days. Over time, as the Christian religion began to spread across the European continent, holly became associated with Christmas as we know it today.. And the missionaries saw that their faith was easier to convey when they mixed Christian customs with old pagan traditions, such as decorating the Christmas tree or using holly in winter.

Legends and traditions associated with holly

Outside the Celtic or Christian tradition, Holly was also considered a symbol of fertility and strength., which is why the Romans used this plant during their festivals. During Saturnalia, a festival dedicated to the god of agriculture and celebrated in the second half of December, holly took a predominant place in the decoration of rooms or in the gifts that were usually exchanged during these events. In addition, in northern countries it is still considered a sacred plant that has the ability to drive away spirits and demons, so it can often be found in cemeteries. In England or France, holly became popular in the 20th century when beggars begged during Christmas by carrying a sprig of holly.

A plant that does not require special care

Holly is a shrub characterized by round, red berries and bright, dark green evergreen leaves – a color combination that usually does well during Christmas. In addition, its leaves, which are closest to the ground, also have a spiky edge that prevents animals from eating them. Another characteristic of the holly is its great longevity, meaning that it can live for over 100 years and also reach a height of up to 10 meters. Of course, you need to be very careful with its red fruits, because although it is an essential food in the diet of animals, They are very toxic to humans.. This is because it contains a substance known as viscotoxin, which can be very harmful to the human body if consumed in large quantities. So much so that in the past, various potions were prepared from these fruits to cleanse the body.

Holly can live more than 100 years and reach a height of 10 meters.Holly can live more than 100 years and reach a height of 10 meters.

Holly typically grows in the deepest forested areas of Europe, Asia or North Africa, so this plant is accustomed to withstanding low temperatures and mostly humid environments. This ability to survive makes this species virtually maintenance-free, although it does require dry soils with good drainage. Because it is an endangered species, its collection is prohibited., but in specialized places, such as nurseries, they can be purchased and planted at home either from the plant itself or from its seeds. They tend to be quite sticky, so that when a bird lands on a holly branch they remain attached to her plumage, and when she takes off again she picks them up and they germinate when she lands on another plant. The best time to plant it is late summer or early autumn, as this is the time of growth and birth of its flowers.

The ideal place to plant holly is in partial shade, where sunlight does not directly hit the plant. Plus, in principle, it only needs to be watered a couple of times a month, although this all depends on whether it will be planted indoors or outdoors, as well as the type of climate. Holly is used to living in cold, wet environments, so if these environmental characteristics change, it will likely need more weekly watering. The fact that it does not require special care is also due to its Greater resistance to various pests, although its Achilles heel is found in caterpillars. When a plant is attacked by these worms, the plant needs to be treated as soon as possible to kill them so that the holly is unharmed and ready for next Christmas.

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