Most of the Christmas home decorations we see in Christmas stores today have evolved from many other cultures. Charles D. Warner wrote about the Christmas holiday season in 1884. He quotes “We have saved out of the past nearly all that was good in it”. There is no doubt that Christmas as we know it today is better than the holidays celebrated in the past. At the mere mention of ivy, mistletoe or holly the visions of the Christmas holidays with all its wonderful memories comes rushing back into our minds. We see visions of snow covered hills, Christmas tree decorations, carolers singing with ringing brass bells and lighted outdoor Christmas decorations, lighting up the night sky. In the winter when most native plants lose their leaves, flowers and fruits, mistletoe, evergreens, holly and ivy are winter wonders for us to admire. No wonder these winter delights were used as decorations to brighten up the cold days of winter.
Mistletoe has a special meaning for the Christmas holiday season. The hanging mistletoe in the doorways creates many diversions and plots from friends to receive a special kiss under a mistletoe ball. The mistletoe kissing tradition comes from a Norse myth. Frigga who was one of the gods gave her son Balder a charm of mistletoe so he would be protect from the elements. Since mistletoe grows on trees and does not grow from the water, the earth, from the fire or the air it held the power to harm him. An arrow made of mistletoe from one of the other struck Balder down, and his mother cried tears of white berries. The tears brought her son back to life and she vowed to kiss anyone who rested beneath the mistletoe plant. So this is how the mistletoe kissing tradition began. In the early days mistletoe was called the all-healer in Celtic speech. There are traces in Britain of the sacredness of mistletoe as well as holly. In other European countries mistletoe is believed to possess marvelous healing powers for sickness. Mistletoe is even recognized as a power for averting misfortune. It was also believed to be the remedy against poisons. Mistletoe is also believed to make barren animals fruitful.
Holly was also believed to have magical powers and even have the ability to drive demons away. In German many considered holly to be a good luck charm against the hostile forces of nature. A Shropshire custom chose to leave the holly and ivy up until Candlemas, the mistletoe was left up and preserved until the next holiday season. The hanging mistletoe remained so that good fortune would follow the household till the next holiday season. In the early days food was also central for holiday decorations. As the Christmas season grew near huge batches of candies, cookies and sweet fruits were prepared for both food and as Christmas Decorations. Not all the early Christmas decorations in the home came from the kitchen. Surrounding woods and fields provided an abundance of flowers, pods, straw and foliage for Christmas Decorations to.
As early as the fifteenth century, Stow’s of London noted that the Christmas custom in every household, parish and church was to be decked with items of ivy, bays, holm and other seasonal greens. Many of the elders in England will recall the old English mode of church decor of sprigs of holly and yew stuck into the high pews making the churches a miniature forest during the holiday season. In London the Christmas decor extended outside as well when the city light poles, standards were decorated with holiday decorations. Christmas trimming evolved next into homemade trimmings of knots of bright ribbon, beads, lace and paper stars. Lace decorated bags were filled with candies. Seeds, berries, nuts, popcorn and other homemade materials civilized the wild beauty of the holidays past. The stringing of popcorn and cranberries can still be seen on Christmas trees today. Even artificial popcorn and cranberries can be purchased in Christmas stores today. Tree decor has grown by great strides in the past century, making the creative and inspirational holiday decorating more delightful.