Holly grows quite abundantly in Ireland in winter, as do other evergreens, which is one of the reasons that the story handed down in Irish families that the Irish invented the Christmas wreath is quite possibly true. You might hear stories about Roman athletes or English druids in the past of the wreath, but when it comes to Christmas, using a wreath on the door as a mark of celebration and welcome comes back to Ireland.
Holly bears the red and green colors long associated with Christmas celebration. Its abundance carried that idea along, as well. It did not matter whether you were wealthy or poor or somewhere in between, by placing a wreath on your door you could could offer a mark of welcome and celebration to share with all who passed by, and with friends and family as well.
Holly shows up in music at this season quite a bit, as well. The Holly and the Ivy (also called the Holly and the Berry) is one that has crossed over and connected through many cultures. English words, Irish stories, a French melody. Many artists have recorded it. An especially fine version is by Cherish the Ladies, with Heidi Talbot singing the lead, on the album On Christmas Night.
A good song and story to think about as you hang your own wreaths, and enjoy those others have put up to share their joy this holiday season.
The photographs are berries in County Louth, Ireland, a wreath (among the trees, down the street) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and two wreaths in Austin, Texas.
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