We hear the term “boughs of holly” during this time of year but, as with many traditional Christmas carols, don’t always know what it means. As it turns out, holly is a pretty fascinating tree with a rich history involving legends, stories and myths from many different cultures. It’s also the official birth “flower” for December, making it appropriate to celebrate Christmas and a loved one’s birthday this month! Here, the floral experts at Kitty’s Flowers break down everything you need to know about holly as you begin to decorate for this season’s festivities.
What is Holly?
Holly is a shrub-like tree that grows year-round, making it the stuff of legends. With thick, leathery leaves that have spiky points and bright red berries, this tree has many great uses. The berries, while toxic to humans and most household pets, are a food source for many birds, including robins. In winter, when many trees are bare, birds find shelter and protection from predators among the serrated leaves of the holly tree. But most commonly today, we see holly everywhere we look during the winter months as a symbol for Christmas. It’s deep green leaves and bright red berries are a natural fit to Christmas decor and color scheme.
Holly Berries on Snowy Branch
Holly Wreath on Old Door
What Does Holly Symbolize?
For centuries, holly has been revered as mystical among many cultures. Ancient Druids and Norse cultures believed the tree had protective qualities, and could even ward off lightning strikes. People would place holly branches, or boughs, in their homes to keep evil spirits and lightning away, while encouraging good will on their home. Ancient Romans and Celtics believed the holly tree brought good luck. The Romans gave holly wreaths as gifts to newlyweds and Celtic chieftains wore crowns of holly as they ruled. Holly has also been prevalent in winter celebrations and festivals throughout history. From ancient Chinese New Year, the Roman festival of Saturnalia, and today’s Christmas celebration, holly is a constant reminder of good fortune and hope for a bright future.
How Can We Decorate with Holly?
This time of year, it’s easy to include holly in your holiday decor. It’s versatility makes it a great addition to your holiday table’s centerpiece, or lay boughs of holly along your fireplace mantle for a rustic, natural look. Wreaths of holly adorn front doors and can be added to Christmas trees, as well. We use holly in an assortment of our arrangements including wreaths, centerpieces, grave blankets, and kissing boughs. We love using holly because it is long-lasting and beautiful to look at. It is often variegated (our favorite) with a dark green center and a cream-colored outline. Our Winter Elegance Bouquet features holly berries on branches for a rustic, textural addition, while the holly berries in our Christmas Flare bouquet bring attention to stunning accents. Included in a centerpiece like our Christmas Aglow centerpiece, holly berries bring out the beauty of flowers along with pinecones and fresh winter greens.
Winter Elegance Bouquet
Christmas Flare Bouquet
Christmas Aglow Centerpiece
When you include holly in your holiday decor, it brings your look to life and adds a festive touch that dates back centuries. What a great way to connect ancient traditions to our modern celebrations each Christmas! For more great ways to include holly leaves and berries in your holiday look, talk to the floral designers at Kitty’s Flowers. We’re here to help you choose the perfect bouquet, centerpiece or holiday decor that will fuse tradition and modern style.