Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

The Holly and the Ivy

I gave a talk recently to Hinckley and Burbage Association of Retired Persons / Over 50s. The talk was “The Holly and the Ivy”, and the venue was the Millennium Hall at Burbage.

In this talk I give an idea of the origins of some of the best loved traditions of the Christmas period – in particular, those traditions which don’t really have anything to do with Christmas as a religious festival.

For example, Christmas cards only date back to the 1840s. They were invented by Sir Henry Cole, who was much too busy to write individual letters to all his friends.

Christmas crackers, too, only date back to the 19th century. The inventor of these was confectionery manufacturer Tom Smith, whose name still appears on good quality crackers.

However, some traditions come from the old Norse religion, especially the ones involving bringing greenery into the house.

Did you know that when you have a kiss under the mistletoe, you are supposed to remove a berry? There are only as many kisses available as there are berries on the mistletoe bunch.

And traditionally holly is mistletoe and ivy is female. If you entwine holly and ivy together, it will ensure marital harmony between man and wife throughout the year.

Now isn’t that a good idea? I’m sure it must be true.