Holiday Greenery!

8 Dec

The Christmas season abounds with holiday customs and traditions and we prepare by decorating our homes with lights, candles and greenery. Greenery is a Christmas tradition many families love and the color green represents eternal life. Plants that remain green throughout the year play an important role in the Christmas celebrations representing this eternal life.

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Hanging a circular wreath of evergreens during mid winter is a long standing tradition. The origins of the Advent wreath are found in pre-Christian Germanic traditions. During the cold winters and long nights people gathered wreaths of evergreen and lighted fires as a sign of hope for the upcoming spring and renewed light.

Christians kept these traditions alive and by the 16th century they used these symbols to celebrate their Advent hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. Traditionally the wreath is made of four candles in a circle  of evergreens with a fifth candle in the middle. The three candles are either violet or white and the fourth is rose. Each day at home the candles are lighted week by week until December 25th. The lighting of this candle takes place on Christmas Eve and it represents Jesus Christ being born.

Another tradition that represents the Christmas season is Mistletoe, a plant that grows on willow trees. Mistletoe is supposed to possess mystical powers which brings good luck to households and wards off evil spirits. It was also used as a sign of love and friendship.

The custom of kissing under Mistletoe originates from England. The original custom was that a berry was picked from the sprig of Mistletoe before the person could be kissed and when all the berries had gone, there could be no more kissing! How cute!!

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There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettia’s and Christmas came together:

There was once a little girl from Mexico named Pepita. She had no presents to give the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Service, which made her very sad. Her cousin, who loved her dearly told her “I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy.”

Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She began to feel better, and then knelt down to put the bouquet towards the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.

The shape of the poinsettia flower and its leaves are thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The beautiful red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.

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