Christmas > Symbols
Mistletoe is one of the most sacred plants of European folklore. Believed to bestow life and fertility, it was used to protect against poison and act as an aphrodisiac.
In the Middle Ages branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits, and in Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent witches entering.
The name "Santa Claus" is derived from the Dutch name for St. Nicholas.
The Santa we know today was created largely by the works of Clement Clark Moore, who wrote his poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" in 1822 to read to his children on Christmas Eve. It was eventually published without his consent by the New York Sentinel, and became extremely popular. The cartoonist Thomas Nast drew a new Santa image annually from 1863 for Harper's Weekly and is credited with creating much of his current image.
Originally a German tradition, the decorated tree was introduced to England during the Georgian period. It was usual for the tree to be placed in a pot and displayed on a table. Decorated with wax candles, baskets of sweets, little ornaments and flags, it had gifts placed underneath.
In the Middle Ages, a large log, often decorated with greenery and ribbon, was ceremoniously carried into the house on Christmas Eve, and put in the fireplace of the main communal room. It was lit with the saved end of the previous year's log and burnt continuously for the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Holly & Ivy
Early Christians used to display evergreen plants in their homes to symbolise everlasting life. Holly (representing the masculine) and Ivy (the feminine) were the most popular combination.
According to English legend, both plants together protect a house against evil spirits.