Christmas Trees, Holly and Mistletoe: The Festive Greens of Winter

by Danielle Charles

Looking out my window this morning, the world is, for all purposes, white. Indeed, it looks as though I am seeing the world through a black and white lens as I scan across the landscape – the ground is white with freshly fallen snow; the mountains etched with the fine grey lines of the leafless trees;  the sky a dull silver with just the palest glimmer where the sun is climbing the horizon.

I fail to see anything of color at all, in fact,  until my eye comes upon the large spruce across the way, looking vibrantly green and quite majestic through the thin mist of falling snowflakes. While it isn’t the verdant green of a summer’s pasture or the pale virescent shimmer of spring’s first unfolding leaves – it is a refreshing sight to my color (and life) starved eyes none the less. Something alive and awake in this sleepy, snowy landscape!

To me, there is no wonder that these persevering signs of greenery became such festive associations with the darkest days of the year.  It may seem like idle tradition to decorate a tree, kiss under the mistletoe or hang a holly wreath on your door – but I think these small gestures come from a deep and ancient place within us. This is a place that is never quite certain if the cycle of life will continue, never knowing for sure if the sun will turn on its course and draw the green life out of the earth again with its warm embrace.

So we fill our homes with sprigs of whatever green life we can find, not only to bring the semblance of the outdoors and plant life into our indoor winter lives, but as signs of hope to tide us over until the days begin to lengthen again with the promise of Spring.  And of course, we still sense the awe and fascination that our ancestors felt for these plants that managed to exist outside of the rhythms and constraints of the earthly seasons; plants that managed to thrive and remain green when all the rest of earth was sleeping.  As such, they were and are symbols of immortality, and hold all the enchantment and magic of being such.

So in the spirit of the season, of moving into the darkest days of our year, why not deck the halls with boughs of holly?  Hang a mistletoe in the doorway to steal a kiss under, decorate a tree with the whole family and wrap a garland over your mantle piece. Fill your entire home with the green treasures of these ancient, magical plants.  Apart from simply being festive, they fill our spirits with a sense of magic and the promise of another plentiful year.