By Joanne K., Pitt County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer
With the holiday season upon us, evergreens are decorating everything from churches and front doors to streetlights and car bumpers! These greens appear in many forms, including trees, wreaths, and garlands.
Vikings used evergreen decorations to ward off evil spirits associated with the winter solstice. Fir trees served as New Year's decorations for the Romans.
Holly (Ilex) was considered a sacred plant by Druids, for whom it symbolized fertility, and eternal life. Romans used it to decorate during Saturnalia, the feast of Saturn, the god of agriculture and harvest. For Christians, holly came to symbolize Jesus Christ, with the berries representing his blood, and the thorns the crown that was placed on his head before he died.
Ivy (Hedera helix) is another green used by the ancients to represent eternal life and the return of spring. Romans associated it with Bacchus, the good of wine and intoxication. In some cultures, it symbolized marriage. For some it represented prosperity and fortune, which early Christians saw as a sign to help those less fortunate.
Ivy and holly are frequently used together to make wreaths and other Christmas decorations.
Although the history of how Christmas and evergreens came together may be open to different interpretations, it's a beautiful tradition celebrating the spirit of the season.
Christmas Tree (Pinaceae family)—Joanne K.
Christmas Wreath (Pinaceae family)—Joanne K.
Holly (Ilex)—Joanne K.
Ivy (Hedera helix)—Joanne K.
Bay Laurel (Taurus nobilis)—Leaves, Twinning Valley Nurseries CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum)—Joanne K.