The Presence of Plants in Our Winter Traditions

The Presence of Plants in Our Winter Traditions

Holly (Illex aquifolium) –

Originating in Ireland, the tradition of hanging a holly wreath or bough symbolizes protection and good fortune in the new year. It started when the druids wore holly headpieces to ward off evil powers.

Personalize it: If you hang a holly wreath on your door, what good fortune might it symbolize for your family? What would you like to cultivate in the new year?


mistletoe holiday tradition

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

To the Greeks, Druids, Celts, and Norse people, mistletoe was sacred. It was a symbol of fertility and abundant harvest. In Norse legends, couples caught under the plant were compelled to kiss. The tradition continues today.

Personalize it: How could you use this plant to symbolize fertility or abundance in your home?


oak yule log holiday tradition

Oak (Quercus)

Although the exact origin of the Yule Log tradition is unclear, it made its way into recorded history in 1184 in early modern Europe and is part of pagan and Christian traditions. The Yule log is commonly oak, which symbolizes endurance and strength. It is commonly the largest log available and burns throughout the night. An unburt piece is kept to guard against misfortune and common ailments, and to start the Yule fire the following year.

Personalize it: What traditions do you carry from year to year? How will you create an enduring warmth this season?


spruce evergreen holiday tradition

Spruce (Picea) –

Many cultures around the world celebrate The World Tree, an icon that represents the connection of the heavens, earth and underworld. It can symbolize wisdom, mother earth and directionality. The type of tree varies based on location and environment. To indigenous American people in temperate climates, spruce is used to represent the World Tree.

Personalize it: How will you use native trees in your winter celebrations this year?


mushroom holiday tradition

Fly Agaric Mushrooms (Amanita muscaria)

In Northern Europe and Asia, psychedelic mushrooms have long been part of winter solstice celebrations. Some say that story of Santa Claus has roots in shamanic tradition in Siberia and the Arctic. Many people still decorate the hearth or tree with strings of mushrooms during winter celebrations.

Personalize it: How can you celebrate fantasy and whimsy this year?


Cuetlaxochitl / Poinsettia holiday tradition

Cuetlaxochitl / Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

In central Mexico The Aztecs used the flowers of the Cuetlaxochitl plant to make dye, and the sap for medicinal purposes. The Aztec name means, “Flower that withers, mortal flower that perishes like all that is pure." Joel Robert, an ambassador to Mexico, had the plants imported into the United States where they became referred to by his name. It is still commonly used in Mexico and the US as part of Christmas celebrations as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem, which led the wise men to Jesus Christ.

Personalize it: What journey have you taken over the past year and where are you heading? Where do you want this next year to take you?