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Garden Club hearts Christmas greenery stories
Courtesy photo: Alicia Boor, Cottonwood Extensio District agent, shared information on the history and legends of some of the greenery used as decor for the Christnas season at the December Garden Club meeting

Alicia Boor from the Cottonwood District Extension District shared the reasons for the season’s traditional greenery with eight members of Great Bend Garden Club during their December meeting. The greenery used in our Christmas Season’s decorations has rich traditions from around the world.  

The beautiful poinsettias are a tropical plant brought originally from Mexico by a missionary who found them being used by the churches there because of their Christian tradition of bringing a gift to the Christ child. When a poor child had nothing to bring except some green leaves he had gathered, the story goes that because of the child’s gift of faith, the leaves turned to red like the leaves of the poinsettia plant. In the United States poinsettias are only grown in green houses and must be protected from winter weather.

The practice of using holly berries at Christmas comes from an ancient Druid tradition of hanging the evergreen holly over their doorways as a symbol of rebirth and renewed life following a long winter. A humorous old tradition concerning holly was that if a wife brought holly home on a sunny, warm day she could rule the household for the year. If she brought it home on a cold, dreary day, her husband could rule the house.

Mistletoe is a common symbol of love used at Christmas time because of a story from Scandinavian mythology. Baldur, the son of the Norse god Thor, was shot and killed by an arrow covered with mistletoe, the only plant that hadn’t vowed to his wife never to cause the death of Baldlur. When other gods managed to raise Baldur from the dead, his wife was so pleased, she declared the mistletoe the plant of love and vowed to kiss anyone who passed under it.

According to a legend, one Christmas Eve, a Jesuit missionary named Father Jose was finding it hard to gain the trust and faith of the Bolivian children he was trying to teach. While praying for guidance, he heard the children singing a song he had taught them and carrying to the church armfuls of a jungle flower they had gathered. That flower became known as the Christmas cactus.

The tradition of evergreen trees that have become our Christmas trees is said to have originated with Martin Luther. One night when marveling at a sky filled with stars behind a row of evergreens, he cut one down, took it inside and covered it with candles to represent what he had seen. This tradition of an evergreens representing both natural and spiritual life came to America originally from Germany.