These plants are steeped in English tradition, first celebrated by Druids believing holly brought good luck and protection to men, while ivy did the same for women. The bright green leaves in winter in Christian circles are symbols of eternal life while red berries are reminders of the blood or Christ.

Mistletoe is another Christmas favourite which has pagan origins as well. Two hundred years before the birth of Christ, Druid priests performed a special ceremony after five days of the New Moon winter solstice where they cut mistletoe from a holy oak tree with a golden sickle. It had to be caught before it touched the ground, and it was then distributed to the people to hang above doorways for protection against thunder and lightning.

Celtic warriors believed they would be protected if they camped under a tree filled with mistletoe. Druids also thought it to have magical fertility powers, possibly leading to the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe for some, however, that tradition is actually traced to Norse mythology.

According to Nordic tradition, the mischievous Loki killed Balder, the god of peace, by a dart poisoned by mistletoe. Balder’s mother, Frigga, the goddess of love, cried at the death of her son and her tears were transformed into the clear berries now found on mistletoe. Balder’s life was restored, and Frigga made it a symbol of love and peace, promising a kiss to anyone that passed under the mistletoe.

No matter what the origin, mistletoe is can be used to remind us of love and peace and to exchange friendship greeting.