Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Ancient "Roots" of Holiday Plants

The tradition of decking the halls with greenery at Christmastime originates in the Pagan winter solstice festivals of northern Europe and the British Isles. Because the evergreen tree keeps its needles even during the coldest months, when other plants die or lose their foliage, our ancestors viewed it a symbol of everlasting life. (Christmas trees didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the late nineteenth century.)

Trees of all kinds were sacred to the Druids. According to Celtic mythology, holly bushes provided shelter for the faeries and nature spirits during the winter. The holiday custom of hanging it on doorways and in our homes stems from an ancient belief in holly’s protective powers.
The Druids also valued mistletoe, and considered it an herb of fertility and immortality. Used in talismans as an aphrodesiac, mistletoe was thought to enhance creativity of all kinds––perhaps that’s why we kiss beneath it today.

From the perspective of aromatherapy, the fresh scent of pine, balsam, and spruce offers cleansing properties. These evergreens help to clear the air during the winter months, when we close up our homes to keep out the cold. When inhaled, the essential oils extracted from these trees can also provide relief from winter colds and flu.

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