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A Holly for the Solstice


It’s the time to bring in the holly!

Fellow blogger Linda gives a nice explanation of what solstice means in her latest post, among other lovely words and a song.

Holly in Hedge

The Holly is identified

This year it’s a bit lopsided and spindly, maybe because of the sunless summer. But never mind, the bare bit will go in the corner.

Holly has been symbolically important for centuries, though I have to admit our reasons for having it as a festive tree are tinged, along with a love of it, with the practical – it’s there, it’s beautiful…and we’ve got a saw.

Cutting Holly

Friend Pete does the business

Cutting Holly

Festive tree taking shape


‘As the indigenous pagan traditions mixed with those of the pagan Romans, gifts of holly were given during the five day festival of Saturnalia, which celebrated the birth of the sun-god and culminated when the sun moved into the zodiacal sign of Capricorn at the precise astronomical time of the Winter Solstice. The power of these pagan celebrations on or about the 22nd December and their effect on the people were well recognized by the Church, and so they closely aligned the birth of Christ, on 25th December, to the pagan date. In Christian legend holly sprang up from under Christ’s feet as he walked upon earth, and in certain parts of Europe holly is still called ‘Christ’s thorn, for it was believed that its thorny leaves and bright red berries symbolized Christ’s suffering and foretold the passion.’

‘One of the strongest legendary images we have of holly is that of the holly king. This image, featured in the medieval renaissance of the twelfth century, evolved from an ancient recognition of the spirit of vegetation, traditionally represented as a wild-looking man covered in branches and foliage: the legendary Wildman….The holly king was symbolised by a giant man covered in holly branches and leaves, who carried a holly bush as his club. He represents the tenacity of life, the green of Nature carried through the seasons and guarded by his spiky holly club, his light reflecting ‘mirrored’ leaves and his fiery-red berries…’

Holly King

These last two paragraphs are from Tree Wisdom – The definitive guidebook to the myth, folklore and healing power of Trees a book by Jacqueline Memory Paterson.   if they pay their tax of course 🙂

And Science on the Land has just linked to an interesting post about Christmas being nothing to do with jesus.

Anyway the cows seemed to get quite excited by the holly, I had to rescue it pretty sharpish.

Traditional English Hereford Heifers with Holly

Yum yum

Traditional English Hereford Heifers

Time for a distraction

Here it is waiting to go inside

Holly by the Door

In position

Festive Holly Tree

Festive Feet

Getting in the mood for decorating – yep, that’s mud…so much of it!

Box of Christmas Decorations

Ah, the first sight of old favourites..

Et voila!

Festive Holly Tree

Knitted Reindeer

x x A very Merry Solstice and Christmas to all! x x

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. supernova #

    A Merry Solstice and Christmas to you too, thank you!

    December 21, 2012
  2. Cows eat holly? Who knew?! Love the tree, very festive. Happy Christmas!

    When I was (8 and a half months) pregnant with Alpine Boy I decided I would make my own holly wreath. This involved going into the local wood and, well, stealing (for want of a better word) enough holly to make said wreath. Imagine me – size of a house, pliers in hand, rucksack full of holly pricking me in the head, trying to hide behind a (leafless) tree any time we heard anyone coming in case we got told off… It was a very nice wreath in the end. I never made another one though, far too much effort!

    December 21, 2012
    • Haha I can just see (the two of) you staggering around 🙂 I’ve done a holly wreath before too – very very painful!

      I suppose there won’t be any singing of ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas’ round at yours any more…

      December 23, 2012
    • I’d never heard of cows eating holly, either. Will ask my OH (ex-farmer of cattle) whether she’s seen such a thing.

      And tninkingcowgirl, thanks for the pingback.

      December 23, 2012
      • OH came back indoors and said no, cattle don’t eat holly. She looked at your picture and said it’s just beefers being curious, as cattle are.

        December 23, 2012
      • They were definitely eating it! The young shoots at the top. In fact I’m pretty sure I heard a story about people in the past pollarding holly and other foliage for cattle fodder – basically anything they could get their hands on. And these old breeds are designed to feed on foraging, that’s one of the reasons we got them. If you read the brilliant book ‘The Secret Life of Cows’ she talks about them foraging for different foliage when they lack certain nutrients in their usual diet (they really like Ash as well). I mean, eating grass all day long, how boring is that? 😉 No wonder they crave a bit of variety. It would be like us eating porridge all day – and once is enough for me!

        December 23, 2012
  3. Apparently those folks over at Science on the Land don’t subscribe to Faulkner’s take on the relationship of fact and truth. 😉 I love this, from the great author himself: “What do facts and truth have to do with one another?… The best fiction is far more true than any journalism.”

    Here’s something that’s true – your holly tree is more beautiful than any plastic tree still sitting in a store, waiting to be assembled. I especially like the bells. I have a set of aluminum bells that go back at least to 1950 – they hung on our tree when I was a kid. And look at that reindeer. I just can’t stop smiling looking at all of that.

    What I can’t remember is if I’ve ever seen holly your kind of holly growing as a tree. We do have hollies, but I think they’re surely different varieties. Still, they have green leaves and red berries – basic holly adornment!

    December 23, 2012
    • Where do you get all these great quotes from?! I’m in agreement with Faulkner too…

      I used to have theological discussions with my dad when I was much younger – he was lapsed catholic but retained elements of faith in other things and me an atheist so it made for interesting chat. I guess I have come to understand that something doesn’t necessarily have to be true to believe it. I suppose my scepticism is activated when certain parts of scripture are hailed as ‘true’ (anti homosexuality for instance) but not others (God made the world)!

      The reindeer is making me smile too – or could that be the whisky 🙂

      I wonder about your holly – with your climate I would think that they’d be humungous if they were the same variety!

      December 26, 2012
  4. Beautiful tree! I think I’d rather decorate a giant twig than buy a plastic tree from a shop. Perhaps I’ll make a wreath today too. And beautiful photos! Wishing you a very merry Christmas, I hope the rain relents soon… x

    December 23, 2012
    • Thanks B, hope you’ve had a good one. No such luck with the rain yet, it just keeps coming and coming! x

      December 26, 2012
  5. You’re lucky to have your own Christmas tree convenience store! It looks great. But no berries. It must be male. I was just reading an interesting piece about holly here – – where he mentions that deer and ponies in the New Forest were traditionally fed on holly through the winter, so maybe cows too. But birds can get drunk on the berries!

    December 26, 2012
    • Yes, we seem to have a dearth of females, and they don’t actually seed all that well. In London holly seedlings were always popping up in the gardens I worked in but not here. If I see any weaving blackbirds I’ll know why 😉

      Thanks for the link, it’s an interesting article – and true about the pollarding, I’m not mistaken! I guess in the old days before cattle nuts they needed all the extra nutrients they could get for stock.

      December 26, 2012
  6. No holly berries here, completely the wrong season for us but I am thinking of going hunting for Scoodoos to guard the trees on Serendipity Farm…I love your Holly Tree. Our tree was made of driftwood harvested from the riverbank in front of our front gate and aside from looking decidedly pirate-like, it gave us a lot of satisfaction and we didn’t get any needles on the floor. I dare say your cows wouldn’t be as partial to our tree as they were to yours. I love your pear and your home knitted reindeer…my cousin is in the process of knitting me a blue tit…bad puns aside, next year it is going on the tree! 😉

    December 28, 2012

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