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Plant Lore: Holiday Evergreens

Here's a peak of our front room decked out for the holidays.

Long before Christmas trees and Santa Claus became the dominant symbols of the season, civilizations around the world used evergreens to adorn their homes each December for both rituals and protection. There is evidence from ancient Egypt to Rome that this type of tradition has been popular for ages.

Druids cutting down mistletoe to hang for protection. Image courtesy Wilderutopia.

What we know about western Christmas traditions can be traced back to 8th Century Scandinavia, when the Vikings would burn the yule log and mount evergreen wreaths to ward off the evil spirits that they believed were intent on roaming about upon the winter solstice. In some cases, an entire tree was brought inside to feed the fire for as many days as possible. Centuries later, when the Germans set out to convert the Vikings to Christianity, they adopted the tradition of bringing a tree indoors near the winter solstice. Many historians believe the Germans were inspired by the time of year, as it synced up with their celebration of the birth of Jesus, and the evergreen nature of the tree paired well with the idea of everlasting life.

Bringing the Yule log to the fire. Image courtesy Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Ancient Celtics, Druids, and Pagans held similar rituals using evergreen branches from pines, firs, spruces, hollies, and mistletoe to decorate their homes and temples as protection from evil spirits and reminders of the warmer, greener days of summer.

Given how 2020 has gone, I think I’ll try to view our holiday decor through this lens as well. Here's to evergreen decor making way for a greener 2021.


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