The Holly & The Ivy
As I sit here on a cold winter night warmed by the heat of the open fire I often wonder the things this 200-year-old cottage has seen during the festive period. What smells would be coming from the kitchen? How is it decorated? If only the walls could talk. Right now the all-important real tree is lit up with a multitude of fairy lights making it barely possible to get in and out of the front door; the chestnuts are by the fire ready to be roasted; my wreath of holly, ivy & eucalyptus is hanging proudly at the door to signify the circle of life and the sprigs of mistletoe have been hung. There is something I love about bringing the outside in during the festive season. As a child I used to attend a church were they had a wreathing service where the interior of the church was adorned in green garlands.
As the years have gone by in the cottage I have tried to make more of an effort with dressing it for Christmas and in turn starting our own little festive traditions. Since picking up a copy of Sarah Raven’s Complete Christmas earlier on this year I was determined to have a go at making my own wreath. One problem our garden is tiny and has none of the traditional greenery required. This meant a trip to my parents to do a sweep of their garden. There was some hydrangea, but unfortunately they had gone just too far to be useable for decorations. Never did I realise there was so many different types of ivy & holly. Interestingly my parents have an unusual holly bush that produces albino holly. All of the holly bushes at my parents were void of berries. A few days before I arrived the trees had been bulging with berries, but obviously the birds know something I didn’t and literally cleared the trees of all it’s beautiful berries. I grabbed a generous sample of all of the traditional festive greenery and now they have been transformed into decorations around the house and a rather impressive wreath for a beginner like me. I decided to use the limes and chillis to add a bit of festive colour, but also give the wreath a foodie twist.
There are a few traditions surrounding holly, ivy & mistletoe. The main reason for all these plants being used in decoration is that they are evergreens which in turn represents eternal life and encourage the return of the sun. Rosemary, bay & laurel are also sometimes used. Both holly & mistletoe are used for decoration as they are thought to ward off evil spirits. Tradition states that ivy must not be used on its own or dominate as decoration or it’s unlucky hence why Christmas decorations are often a mixture of different evergreens with each plant having its own significance.
After successfully attempting my first wreath I hope this is the first of many and another Christmas tradition for Hubs & I.