“The holly and the ivy/When they are both full grown/Of all the trees that are in the wood/The holly wears the crown.”
Holly and ivy have been potent symbols of Christmas for hundreds of years, and just like in the Christmas carol they seem to go as a pair.
Originally used as symbols of pagan celebration, as the winter solstice festival slowly began to evolve into a Christian celebration holly and ivy were adopted as Christian symbols too. In the Christian faith, holly symbolises the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross, and the red berries are the beads of blood on His brow.
Ivy needs a strong, sturdy support to grow healthily, which Christians see as symbolising the relationship between God and man.
Decorating your home with holly and ivy this Christmas is a great way to give a traditional, cosy feel – and collecting the raw ingredients can be turned into a family day out in the countryside.
Don’t forget to take a basket, some scissors and a pair of thick gloves for collecting holly, then try a few of our decorating ideas.
Holly and ivy table decorations
If you’re short of time or craft-making isn’t your thing, a few fresh holly leaves used as a table decoration can look very effective.
Ideally, use a plain dark green under cloth with a smaller white tablecloth on top. Pull off a few sturdy leaves, rinse them in cold water and lay them on kitchen paper until completely dry. Lay the leaves in groups of three with the ends of the stalks touching.
Although holly leaves will last well without water once picked, holly berries quickly shrivel and may also stain a white tablecloth, so it’s safer to use small red baubles with the leaves to give a berry effect.
Holly and ivy vase
For an easy centre piece or mantlepiece decoration, fill a green glass vase with different length pieces of holly.
Cut long strands of ivy, and carefully cut or pull off all the leaves except the eight or ten at the top. Put the bottom of the stalk in the vase, and let the rest of the ivy trail over the side of the vase.
If you like, you could also thread baubles onto florists’ wire and stick them in with the holly. Remember that the berries on fresh holly won’t last as long as the leaves and may drop onto the carpet or table.
Holly berries are poisonous, so if you have small children or pets it’s best to take the real berries off and replace them with false ones such as glass beads or baubles, which can be securely wired into place.
Holly and ivy are both ideal for creating your own Christmas garland.
For a real Victorian-inspired effect, use a length of thick rope. Bind short lengths of holly, ivy and fir to it with florists’ wire, then add in gilded fir cones, baubles and anything else you like.
For a lighter garland, suitable for weaving along a windowsill full of Christmas cards or decorating a festive table, use a length of parcel or real ribbon. Knot baubles to it at regular intervals. Bind holly leaves with wire in groups of three, and knot them into the ribbon.
How are you decorating your home for Christmas? Leave us a comment below!