Evergreens have been used to decorate houses in winter since pre-Christian times. Holly bears its fruit in winter and is a symbol of hope for plenty to come. Unlike mistletoe, it could be used in churches and collected from hedgerows for free. Holly has always been credited with healing properties. People believed it helped ward off ailments such as asthma, gout and – more strangely – measles. A piece of holly kept back from church decorations was thought to be especially lucky. It is easy to see why it lent itself to becoming a Christian symbol: the spines and the blood-red berries were quickly associated with Christ’s crown of thorns.

There is a legend which tells of a little lamb following the shepherds to the manger when it became entangled in the thorns of a holly bush and the redberries represent the drops of blood it shed.

As we decorate our homes with holly this Christmas we should remember that Jesus, God’s son, was born in Bethlehem and died to save us all. Let us take every opportunity to celebrate and share this good news with those we meet.

supplied by Margaret Holmes