PLANTS OF THE CHRISTMAS SEASON
by Jeanne Rose
THIS TIME of year there is an immense amount of folklore and
symbolism. The feast of
St. Thomas on December 21, which coincidentally is also the usual
date of the winter solstice as well as the beginning of winter, was
formerly a great children's holiday since it was usually the first
day of the Christmas holidays. It
is also a day when those persons who have a tendency to oversleep
can cure themselves by saying a prayer to the Saint on St. Thomas
Eve, (December 20), before they go to bed.
There is also a divination using the Onion on St. Thomas day.
In England in years past young girls peeled an Onion, wrapped
it in a linen handkerchief, put it under their pillow, and said a
prayer to St. Thomas to show them their own true love in a dream.
On St. Thomas Eve there is also a custom to go about begging
for money and food for the coming Christmas holidays and in return
for the charity the beggar is to give the giver a sprig of
itself is a plant that was held very sacred to the Druids.
It was cut by them at a certain time when the proper visions
were seen and when the moon was correct.
It was often cut at the winter solstice (the shortest day of
the year, the time 'when the sun begins its return') to protect
whoever held it (i.e., Mistletoe) from all evil, and it was given to
everyone to announce the new year (not New Years, but the new year
as recognized from the time when the days began to grow in length).
Holly, considered anathema to witches, was hung over
doorways, in windows, and next to the chimney, lest a witch enter
through these openings. The
Druids, who venerated the sun, held Holly sacred since the sun never
deserted its evergreen leaves.
comes from the word meaning 'different twig', referring to the
plant's habit of growing on wood rather than its own.
It is said that originally it was a tree when it's wood was
used for the Cross of Christ, it shrank to its present form and was
doomed to live on the strength of others.
It too, according to Druid culture, was holy.
Its white berries are sometimes called Frigga's tears for the
Norse goddess who grieved so bitterly over the death of her son,
killed by an arrow made from the magic Mistletoe, that the gods took
pity upon her and restored her mischievious son to life.
Thereafter, Mistletoe would be a plant of peace, she decreed,
and those who passed beneath it should exchange a kiss.
symbols of immortality, have been an aspect of winter festivals from
primitive times. Called
trees of sanctuary, Junipers were believed to have sheltered the
Holy Family in their flight, and now they keep from harm all who
need help. In the Middle
Ages, Juniper was burned and the sap spread above doors, to fend off
demons, and Junipers were planted at doorways to protect the home
from witches. As Adelma
Simmons says in her Christmas
Herbal, "Bound by the devil's law to count the needles
before they entered, witches found the task too onerous and so
searched out unprotected entrances."
recalls the journey of the Holy Family to find the shelter for the
birth of Christ. She
laid her blue cloak over the fragrant Rosemary bush and its flowers
thereafter turned from white to blue in her honor.
manger herb, Thyme, along with Rosemary, Bedstraw and Pennyroyal,
are used in home decorations. These
fragrant herbs had a pleasing antiseptic fragrance the kept the bed
of the baby Jesus wholesome, free from vermin.
Thyme is a symbol of bravery and associated with Jesus as he
would have to endure much suffering and have to be courageous and
Bedstraw spread upon the ground protected those who slept upon it
from disease and harm from the evil one.
Pennyroyal was a protection from giddiness as well as put
into the bet to keep it clean.
Seasonal Herbal, an unpublished book by Jeanne Rose, © 1981
fragrant herbs can be used whole, or their essential oils can be
burned or diffused throughout the household.
I like to use an aromatic diffusor that breaks down the oils
into a fine mist that disperses into the room to create a clean and
healing environment. This
diffusor is rather like a vaporizer but cleaner, safer and cheaper
to use. The diffusor
& essential oils are availalble from Leydet Aromatics, PO Box 2354, Fair Oaks, CA
as well as Herbal BodyWorks 219 Carl Street, San Francisco, CA
The Jeanne Rose
Victorian Potpourri is also
known as "Holiday
Scents" and contains Anise, Cinnamon, Gifts of the Magi, Christmas
Fir, Cedarwood & Orange Peel!
All rights reserved 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. No part of this article may
be used without prior permission from Jeanne Rose.
© Authors Copyright Jeanne Rose,