The holly, symbol and star of Christmas
Published on November 23, 2022
What is holly? Why is it used at Christmas? How did it become a symbol of this holiday? Our answers
Garlands, wreaths or bouquets, holly is omnipresent in our decorations during the end of year celebrations. A symbol of Christmas, this plant with green leaves and prickly tips adorned with red berries is often seen as a good luck charm at the dawn of a new year.
What is holly?
Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is a shrub belonging to the Aquifoliaceae family. It grows naturally in Europe.
It is a shrub with prickly dark green foliage and red fruits. Its growth is slow but it can reach up to ten meters in height.
Its robust foliage, resistant to the cold (up to -15°C) and its very decorative fruits have made it one of the most used ornamental plants in Christmas decorations. It is often used to make Christmas wreaths, garlands, bouquets but also for table decoration.
How did the holly become a symbol of Christmas ?
A legend says that Mary and Joseph, forced to flee to Egypt to escape Herod's soldiers, hid with the baby Jesus in a holly bush. The bush spread its thorny branches and protected the child. To thank him for his protection, Mary blessed the bush and gave it the ability to stay green all year round. But this episode does not appear in the Bible.
The holly has since become one of the symbols of Christmas celebrations. Traditionally, holly is sometimes used to decorate the altar of churches for midnight mass.
Is the holly a lucky charm?
There are many popular beliefs and superstitions about this Christmas "good luck charm".
According to ancient superstitions, Europeans protected themselves from evil spirits, witches, and divine thunderbolts with holly.
Celtic druids used to decorate their staffs with holly and offer branches of this shrub to the men and women of the villages to bring them good luck.