Christmas 2020 marks a return –in a big way – to ancient traditions. Foremost is a trend to natural elements in decorating. A trend fueled in part by a revival of Mid Century Modern stylings and more significantly by awareness of the increasingly perilous state of the natural world. By lovingly blending natural materials into your home décor, you achieve a unique feel and sense of timelessness. It’s not coincidental that many of the materials used in the past to celebrate this special holiday were also among the most potent botanical medicines of the times.
Mistletoe: Symbol of peace and fertility, medicine for the heart, Mistletoe is well suited to its use in kissing balls. A traditional kissing ball consisted of two hoops of woven evergreens set with candles. The hoop hung from the ceiling, a bunch of Mistletoe’s green foliage and white berries at its centre. Any unmarried woman standing under the kissing ball could not refuse a kiss. A berry was picked each time a kiss was given: No more berries – no more kisses. Woe to the tardy – they’d still be unmarried next Christmas.
Holly: Symbol of eternal life, the Holly remains green year-round. English and American hollies are common ornamental greens. Ancient Romans decorated with holly wreaths and gave them as gifts to friends. Prickly, shiny holly leaves, combined with sparkly Christmas balls, make an attractive centrepiece for the table. Don’t include berries – they’re very poisonous. An option I prefer is the spiky leaves and edible smoky blue berries of the Oregon Grape that grows abundantly in our area.
Evergreens: Wreaths made of pine and other evergreen branches have hung from doors and windows since pagan times. Representing a wish for health and vigour, they mirror the use of evergreen bark and needles as winter medicines. The fresh, woodsy scent of the branches is one of the best ways to freshen the air and evoke fond Christmas memories. Easy to make at home, the evergreen wreath’s circular shape is a reminder not only of perfection but also of the expected return of our warm, enduring sun. If you’ve no room for a tree, decorated evergreen boughs in large vases and on the mantelpiece and hearth can make the season cheery and bright.
To add a Mid Century Modern vibe to your Christmas theme, scatter eco-friendly, shatterproof decorations in fuchsia pink, cobalt blue, silver or white on your wreath, garland, centrepieces, Christmas tree or festive evergreen boughs.
A note to animal lovers: Mistletoe and Holly leaves and berries, and Evergreen needles are dangerous to cats and dogs if eaten. Despite its bad reputation, Poinsettias usually only produce a mild tummy upset.
Next: lavender, rosemary, bayberry, Yule log