The beauty of evergreen plants is never more evident than during the winter holiday season. The holly plant, the official December birth “flower,” is a great example of the evergreen foliage we’re so fond of during this time of year. From excellent home decorations to long-standing traditions and symbolism, there’s much to be appreciated in the holly plant. The floral experts at Welke’s Florist love including holly in many of our holiday plants and floral designs. Besides the great color and shape, holly brings along plenty of rich symbolism with it, no matter what culture it represents. See why we love holly so much in the descriptions we offer here.
What is Holly?
Holly is an evergreen tree that boasts shiny green leaves and bright red berries. The leaves are thick and leathery, with serrated edges that give them sharp points. A waxy finish leaves them looking bright all year round. The berries, while gorgeous for decorating, are toxic to humans and most household pets, but the leaves have been used historically for medicinal purposes. Holly can grow as a shrub or, in some varieties, as a tree up to 10-15 feet tall. The sharp leaves and evergreen nature of these trees make them ideal for birds nesting in the winter. They can hide among the leaves and be protected from predators.
Red Holly Berries on Snowy Branch
Holly Wreath on Old Door
What Does Holly Symbolize?
Throughout history, various people groups dating back to ancient times have revered the holly plant. The ancient Druids believed holly had protective qualities, like guarding against evil spirits and bad luck. Ancient Norse tradition recognized holly’s ability to resist lightning, so they associated it with Taranis and Thor, gods of thunder. In Ancient Roman culture, holly was used in the winter celebration of Saturnalia and wreaths of holly were sent to newlyweds for good luck.
Ancient Chinese culture decorated with holly for their winter New Year’s celebration, and Native Americans were known to use the berries for decorating, too. Today, we associate holly with the Christian celebration of Christmas, with the sharp leaves representing the crown of thorns Christ wore, the berries symbolizing his drops of blood, and the evergreen nature of holly as a metaphor for eternal life.
How Can We Decorate with Holly?
Adding holly to your Christmas decor is simple and there are many ways to do so. Place boughs of holly leaves and berries along the fireplace mantle or in windowsills. Add sprigs of holly to vases, hang on the Christmas tree, or even wear them as a pin or in your hair. Wreaths made from holly are especially beautiful on front doors and hanging from windows to welcome the holidays. We love to include them as accents in our holiday bouquets and centerpieces, as seen in our Lights of the Season centerpiece. Our Cozy Comfort bouquet uses holly berries and leaves for texture throughout the design, and our Berries & Spice basket displays holly berries as accents for a festive look.
Lights of the Season Centerpiece
Berries & Spice Basket
The holidays can bring plenty of rich tradition to life, and we don’t often know what it all means or where it came from. Retelling the stories and sharing the meaning behind them help keep traditions alive. Include holly and its long-lasting history in your holiday traditions this year and enjoy the stories that go with it. For more great stories about the history of holly, or to learn some new creative decorating tips, talk to the floral designers at Welke’s Florist. We’re here to help make your holidays merry and bright this season.