Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Gardening Club Learn About Holly and Ivy

I gave my popular talk “The Holly and the Ivy” recently to the John Storer House Gardening Club at Loughborough.

This talk is one of the special ones that I give over the Christmas period.

It’s about the origins of Christmas traditions – but specifically the ones that don’t really have anything to do with Christmas as a Christian festival. They’ve been added over the years.

Christmas trees, for example, have a great deal of lore about them. Evergreen trees and plants were sacred in a number of early belief systems, particularly the Norse religion. It’s easy to see how you could regard the trees that did not apparently die, by losing their leaves in the Winter, as being holy.

The story of Christmas trees involves the great missionary St. Boniface, and Martin Luther, and Queen Charlotte (wife of George III) and Prince Albert.

Holly being traditionally male, and ivy traditionally female, gives rise to the long-held belief that entwining the two in your home will lead to matrimonial harmony throughout the year. Now that’s a good idea.

Christmas crackers are a Victorian invention, the brainchild of a confectionery manufacturer named Tom Smith.

Christmas cards, too, originated in the Victorian period, and were invented by the ultra-busy Sir Henry Cole.

Other seasonal talks that are available for groups include “Ding Dong Merrily on High” (the background to everybody’s favourite Christmas carols), “Who is Santa Claus?” (the origins of this enigmatic character) and “Jingle All the Way” (more seasonal songs).