I love Christmas songs, particularly the old English ones like Deck the Halls and the Holly and the Ivy. I'm also a big fan of wassailing. So, as a gardener, one is curious as to what these plants and traditions mean. In ancient, pagan Europe and England, King Holly rules from MidSummer Night to MidWinter Night. King Oak ruled from MidWinter Night to MidSummer Night. Winter Solstice was the perfect time to celebrate these by bringing greenery in to remind us of life and growth. Holly boughs were brought into the homes, and Mistletoe, the parasitic plant growing in the Oak was also thought to have special qualities. Ivy was another evergreen plant in abundant supply in wintery northern climes.. The Holly was masculine, and the twining Ivy a feminine symbol.
Poinsettias, native to Mexico and Central America, were part of those Christmas celebrations long before it was introduced to America. Now, these fickle tropical plants, along with Paperwhites and Amaryllis are must have traditions as we force them into their showy displays at a time when they would normally be dormant.