Documents: Doktor Doom:

Christmas Folklore and Traditions
by Judith Rogers
by Judith Rogers

I am a freelance garden writer with a weekly column ‘The Gardener’s Corner’ in the Innisfil Scope and quarterly articles in the regional magazine Footprints.

I began a blog to journal my home and garden life at Lavender Cottage. The art of afternoon tea has been a pleasure of mine for years and ‘Tea with Friends’ has become a weekly post with ladies I’ve met through blogging.

December 14, 2014

As you decorate for the holidays, take a moment to reflect on the family traditions that take place every year in your home. Some of these involve plants that invoke a little magic into the tradition and our lives. We know they have been revered for a long time by their presence in Christmas carols and stories.

The most easily recognized plant is the evergreen Christmas tree; whether it be fir, pine or cedar. Rituals of ancient cultures used evergreen trees to celebrate the winter solstice as they symbolized life, continuing to grow even in the coldest of winters. During the Middle Ages, 'Paradise Trees' were decorated with apples, the forbidden fruit of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, pioneers often brought greenery into their homes to provide some life and colour during the dreary winter months. At Christmas, the trees were adorned with garlands of berries and popcorn.

Wreaths symbolize the never ending circle of life - no beginning and no end. Those made with natural materials are more significant as they weave nature within the circle.

Supposedly, a young girl from Bethlehem had nothing to offer the Christ Child but the small wreath of holly leaves she had made. Ashamed of her meager gift, she wept as she presented it to him. When the tears touched the leaves, they became glossy and scarlet berries appeared.

The use of an Advent wreath from the Latin word Adventus, meaning 'the arrival' is a custom many churches practice. Four candles encircle a white one in the center which symbolizes the Christ. Each of the four Sundays before Christmas one candle is lit and the center white one, lit on Christmas Eve.

These legends of folklore wouldn't be complete without the mention of mistletoe. It has many tales of origin; most conclude that it is a parasite that grows on trees like Spanish moss and the berries are poisonous. Possibly dropped down as a gift from the gods, mistletoe would still be a lustrous green even when the host tree had died; thus symbolizing eternal life of the soul, as the soul of the tree was still alive.

Mistletoe was hung over doors to ward off evil spirits, ensure fertility and to entice enemies to forgive each other. Guests entering the home were expected to embrace under the mistletoe. Eventually, the embrace became a kiss and girls who refused one under it would become an old maid.

Kissing under the mistletoe has become a Christmas tradition to express warmth and affection; particularly evident when Mommy is seen kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe at night.

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