The Holly and the Ivy

The Holly and the Ivy, When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood, The holly bears the crown.
~ Old French Carol

Holly-snowWhen I was growing up, this was always my father’s favorite carol.  For some reason it often brought tears to his eyes.  So when I think of it, I am remembering this sweet connection with my dad.  I have often wondered about this song and why it elicited such emotion for him so I did a little research on holly itself.

For thousands of years, holly has had special meaning with many cultures each adding a new layer of significance.  The early Druids saw holly and ivy as female and male – holly stood for the Goddess with her red berries representing the blood of fertility.  Ivy was her consort.

Apparently the Romans thought holly was given by the god Saturn and it figured heavily in the wild and sensual Saturnalia festivals.  It was used by early Christians to decorate their houses during Saturnalia in mid-December so they would blend in and avoid Roman persecution

Over the years, holly has been connected with the Christmas season.  Perhaps, due to its thorny nature, holly could have been seen as the crown of thorns that Jesus was forced to wear – the holly ‘bears the crown’.  It also looks so beautiful in the snow with its bright red berries and shiny green leaves and adds to the cheerfulness of the season.

Its upright growth and deep reaching roots speak to strength and goodness.  In the Bach Flower Remedy pharmacopeia, holly can support healing the inner soul and stimulating a loving nature.  Dean and I have several tall holly bushes outside our door which the birds love to visit.  Now that I know more about holly, I will respect this great and powerful gift of nature even more.