Last year, John van Driel hosted a special Christmas edition of “A Little Night Music” with readings from Marilyn Lightstone, Gordon Pinsent, and more. Here are some of the holiday traditions that Marilyn delved into!
Not only is holly hung on doors and windows, on tables and walls, but it’s green leaves and red berries have become the universal symbol of Christmas – adorning greeting cards, gift tags and labels, gift boxes and wrapping paper. In England, medieval superstition endowed holly with a special power against witchcraft. Unmarried women in particular were told to fasten a sprig of holly to their beds at Christmas to guard them throughout the year from being turned into witches by the evil one. In Germany, branches of holly that had been used as Christmas decoration in church were brought home and kept as charms against lightning. While the English claimed that holly brought good luck to men just as ivy was thought to bring good luck to women. That’s why the holly is always referred to as ‘he’, while the ivy is always a ‘she’.
In pagan Rome the ivy was the badge of the wine God Bacchus and a symbol of unrestrained drinking and feasting, for which reason it was later banished from Christmas homes. Because it was generally grown in cemeteries, the old tradition in England ruled that ivy should be banned from the insides of homes and should only be allowed to grow outdoors. As Charles Dickens observed, ‘creeping where no life is seen, a rare old plant is the ivy green’. Despite that, the delicate little ground ivy which grows in a sweet and shadowed place, was at all times a favourite English house plant, not only at Christmas but all year round. When the pioneers arrived on the shores of the new world, they brought pots of this ground ivy with them, and it remains the most popular indoor as well as outdoor plant all over North America.