The National Trust shares some festive facts and Christmas traditions...
- Early Christians celebrated Christ’s birthday on many different dates, but 25th December seems to have been chosen by Pope Julius I in the 4th century AD.
- In Northern Europe, the winter solstice is celebrated with lights, fire and evergreens to symbolise fertility and longing for the return of summer. Herein lies the origins of the Yule Log and the tradition of Christmas lights and a roaring fire.
- Holly (Ilex aquifolium) has always been the plant most closely associated with Christmas. The red berries allegedly protect against witchcraft. It is a male symbol and was traditionally brought indoors by a man.
- Ivy (Hedera) was traditionally considered to be a feminine companion to holly, which worked to secure the household’s fertility.
- Mistletoe (Viscum album) grows everywhere from the Mediterranean to the Baltic and everywhere enjoys a reputation for magic. Chopping down a mistletoe-bearing tree was considered sacrilegious, and its pagan associations still bar it from many churches.
- Long before the Christmas tree, the Kissing Bough was the main indoor Christmas decoration in many households. It consisted of two bisecting hoops decorated with holly, ivy, ribbons, baubles, apples, oranges and nuts. A spray of mistletoe hung beneath, which would twirl in the draft. Often a trio of dolls depicting Christ, Joseph and Mary were also suspended from the ornament.
- Early mentions of Christmas trees date back to the 1790s. Queen Victorian had her first Christmas tree at Windsor in 1841. Tinsel and baubles were not introduced until Edwardian times.
For more information about local National Trust places and spaces, go to: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/events