Day 15 – Ilux Aquifolium

December 24, 2014

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

No Christmas tree for us this year but we do have one decoration. I walked to the far end of our yard where trees, bushes and weeds often hide deer, fox and coyotes, and cut a few sprigs of holly, the ones from the female tree with red berries. Then I tied them with red ribbon and put them on our front door.

It looks good. It is simple. It is free.

We have several holly trees at the bottom of our yard, some with and without berries. A male plant must be near a female plant for pollination to take place. Besides its attractiveness throughout the winter and its food offerings to birds, the green leaves have been used in herbal remedies for conditions such as dizziness, fever and hypertension (little proof though), and its hard wood is good for carving things such as chess pieces and walking sticks.

I like holly plants, a source of winter food for many of the berry-eating birds in our yard. (Its berries are toxic to humans.) They symbolize a winter ecology. They also represent both pagan and Christian beliefs. The druids held holly as a sacred plant, a fertility symbol, a lucky charm to discourage witches and bad luck. It was a plant, they thought, with magical powers and it represented eternal life. The pagans planted holly close to their dwellings because of its power.

The Christians saw this plant as symbolic of Jesus. The pointed leaves represent the crown of thorns placed on this head before he died on the cross and the red berries reflect the blood that he shed then. Legend says that the berries were originally white but that the holy blood stained them forever. There are several Christmas songs with “holly” in them, the most famous, The Holly and the Ivy, Deck the Hall and Holly Jolly Christmas.

As I was hanging the holly on our front door, a thought occurred to me. If we can infuse such diverse beliefs as paganism and Christianity into this one plant, maybe there is hope of assimilating some current polarized views in some way that can bring us peace.  

Today's gift is a sprig of holly.

You can read my other posts on this project here:

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