Featured Item: Holly & Poinsettia Table Lamp
Winter 2017 Newsletter
Article: HOLLY, MISTLETOE, & POINSETTIA – From Paganism to Christianity
Original Artwork by Cal Haves
As we enter the winter solstice, I think about the holidays soon to come. (Already? – I say to myself every year!) But oh, what fun to see stores decked out and our homes lovingly decorated in holiday cheer starting with Halloween, to Thanksgiving, to all of December’s various religious celebrations and finally to New Year’s. (Oops! Still writing checks with last year’s date.)
Regarding holiday decorations; this winter’s newsletter features a one-of-a-kind, stylized stained-glass Poinsettia & Holly table lamp that will brighten your home all year round. See below in the Featured Item section.
Ever wonder why Holly, Mistletoe, and Poinsettias are seen everywhere during the winter holidays? Not just your customary comercial decorations - we inherit these three plants with ancient histories. Read about their fascinating legends in the Article section below: HOLLY, MISTLETOE, & POINSETTIA – From Paganism to Christianity.
Enjoy our winter newsletter! Wishing you all very Happy Holidays--
Lorena & Crew
Note: Each item presented is a one-of-a-kind work of art available for purchase. Should any item sell, there are no duplicates. Contact us about any similar items.
Poinsettia & Holly Table Lamp
This striking, cone-shaped shade comprises a one-of-a-kind original design that occupies the bottom half of the shade. The image consists of a large stylized flower flanked on either side by vine-like leaves accented with a few jewels. The complete pattern repeats three times around the circumference of the shade creating a decorative irregular border...
HOLLY, MISTLETOE, & POINSETTIA – From Paganism to Christianity
Ever wonder why Holly, Mistletoe, and Poinsettia are seen everywhere during the winter holidays? They all have traditional meanings you might not know about. Where did these traditions begin? Why do we deck our halls with boughs of holly, hang mistletoe, and decorate with pots of poinsettias during December’s celebrations? Here are some fun facts behind their annual festive appearances.
Description of Holly
Holly is a hardy shrub found primarily in forests of North America, Europe and Asia. It bears bright red berry-fruit, glossy evergreen leaves and inconspicuous tiny white flowers. Its wood is hard and excellent for carving chess pieces and walking sticks.
Holly berries are a key source of winter food for many berry-eating birds and animals. They are nutrient-rich, having the highest calorific value of any of the plants foraged by herbivores. Holly is a dioecious plant – meaning individual bushes are either male or female.
When planting a holly hedge, you must plant a mix of girls and boys to guarantee a good crop of berries. Holly berries are toxic to humans, pets and livestock.
History of Holly
Holly’s value goes back to pagan times. Before Christianity holly was considered to be a sacred plant by the Celtic Druids. Because holly is strong enough to thrive during the harshest of conditions while other plants wither in the cold months of winter it was thought its strength had magical powers to ward off evil spirits.
Since holly maintains its bright colors throughout winter’s bleak months, it symbolized life and continuity for the ancient Romans and was cherished during the darkest season for brightening their winter holidays. They decked their halls with holly boughs for the December 17th merrymaking festival of the god Saturn (Saturnalia).
Early Christians adopted the Saturnalia holiday tradition of decorating with holly and changed its symbolism to reflect Christian beliefs – the red berries represent the drops of blood that Jesus shed on the cross for mankind and the prickly leaves symbolize the crown of thorns placed on his head. Ever since, holly has come to be associated with the Christian holiday season of Christmas.
Holly Hedges – architectural adornment
or protection from evil spirits?
Holly Fun Facts
In the Harry Potter novels, holly wood is used in Harry’s wand to protect him against evil doers.
During the Dark Ages holly was planted close to homes as protection against wicked witches and ill-fortune. The tradition endures - holly bushes are still used today as architectural adornment.
Festive holly decorations on Christmas cards is a Victorian innovation.
A lovely lady framed in holly.
Description of Mistletoe
Mistletoe is characterized by small leathery oval leaves and pearl white berries. It is parasitic, meaning that it relies on a host tree for sustenance. Its roots penetrate the bark of the host drawing water and nutrients.
Mistletoe often goes unnoticed, except in the winter months when it can be seen as a ball of green foliage among the leafless branches of the host tree. It provides a great source of food for many birds and animals although it is poisonous to humans.
History of Mistletoe
Mistletoe’s history dates back thousands of years; prized by many ancient cultures for its healing properties. The Greeks used mistletoe as a cure for everything from menstrual cramps to spleen disorders, and the Romans used it as a balm against epilepsy, ulcers and poisons.
Our modern-day association with mistletoe comes from the Celtic Druids’ tradition of hanging it in the house in their belief that its mystical powers would ward off the devil and bring good luck to the household. It also represented vivacity and fertility because it is strong enough to bloom in the middle of winter.
Our association of displaying affection under mistletoe originated from Norse mythology. It was used as a sign of love and friendship. If two warring tribes met perchance in a forest hosting mistletoe, they would pass each other in truce.
The custom we are all familiar with of kissing under the mistletoe came about later among servants in England who were allowed to steal a kiss from any woman standing underneath a sprig of hanging mistletoe. In prudish Victorian times this provided a harmless excuse for an otherwise forbidden public display of affection. The tradition spread among the middle classes and exists to this day.
Today, mistletoe’s popularity has been declining perhaps for the fact that kissing in public is no longer scandalous and “stealing” a kiss from your co-workers could have serious repercussions - a far cry from Victorian times when it was considered bad luck for a lady to refuse.
Mistletoe Fun Facts
The first Christians in Western Europe used mistletoe to decorate their churches in winter to represent love and friendship to mankind.
The name Mistletoe derives from two Anglo Saxon words: “Mistel” (meaning dung) and “tan” (meaning stick). Translation: the romantic act of kissing under “poop on a stick”.
Description of Poinsettias
Poinsettias are native to Mexico. They are found wild in rugged inlands, in tropical forests and down to the entire pacific coast of Mexico to Guatemala. Poinsettias grow naturally as a shrub or tree reaching heights of up to 12 feet tall.
Many mistake the poinsettia’s leaves as the flower, but the flowers are actually the smaller, yellow buds in the center. Poinsettias bloom in a variety of hues besides the popular deep red, such as pink, white and yellow. They bloom in December, making them an ideal holiday flower.
A common misconception is that poinsettia leaves are poisonous. Although they could cause diarrhea, they are only mildly toxic, not fatal, to people and pets. However, Poinsettia sap introduced into the human eye may cause temporary blindness.
History of Poinsettias
Poinsettias were valued by the ancient Aztecs for religious ceremonies, to make red dye for clothing and to cure fevers using its latex sap. Montezuma, the last Aztec king, adorned his palaces in what is now known as Mexico City with brightly colored poinsettia plants.
Poinsettias were unknown in the U.S. and would have remained a regional plant, until 1828 when the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, while wondering the Mexican countryside, discovered a beautiful tree with large red flowers growing next to a road. He brought back cuttings and introduced the poinsettia to Americans for use as landscape plants and as a cut flower. The poinsettia plant is named in honor of Dr. Poinsett’s “discovery”.
Poinsettias caught on slowly in the U.S. until 1900 when a German immigrant, Albert Ecke, living in Los Angeles became intrigued by the plant and sold them from street stands. His son, Paul Ecke developed a grafting technique in the 1960s that changed the somewhat weedy look to a bushier plant. It was marketing-savvy, Paul Ecke, Jr. who was responsible in the 1970s for popularizing poinsettias with Christmas. He sent heaps of free plants from Thanksgiving to Christmas to television broadcast stations like the Tonight Show and The Bob Hope Christmas Specials, etc. where the sets were decorated with dozens of poinsettia plants. Poinsettias became their winter cash-cow.Eventually, the Eckes’ closely guarded secret, the grafting technique, was discovered and published in industry journals for competitive companies to replicate. Today the red plants are a holiday mainstay and although the Ecke family no longer has a monopoly on the market they are still the major producers of poinsettias in the USA.
Poinsettia Fun Facts
Most people treat poinsettias as annuals, purchasing new ones each year to the cash register tune of $200 million in sales every holiday season. Actually, they are perennial shrubs. Click here for tips on how to keep Poinsettias Alive After the Holidays.
To develop its bright red leaves poinsettias require 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness (with not even a peep of light from under a door frame) followed by bright sunny days for two months in autumn, otherwise color production will be hampered.
Whether used by the ancients for practical purposes, later reinterpreted for religious purposes or today sported for commercial purposes these three resilient winter plants, holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia – Mother Nature’s gift every year to earth and its beings - will always be associated with happy holidays.