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The first sign that the festive season has begun is not snow – it is the Coca Cola commercial

Coca Cola hit it off early this year, bringing the sound of the Jolly Fat Man in Red into our homes sometime mid-November, just in time to remind us to do our Christmas shopping on Black Friday. Indeed, most families will have a top shelf in some wardrobe, well out of a child’s line of sight, laden with toys and gadgets, and Moms and Dads worldwide are using secret code words to talk about Christmas presents, so as not to ruin the surprise for the littlest family members.

Flowers
Image: jodie.com.au

The second sign that the festive season has begun is an all-American favorite – Elf on the Shelf. Now starts the traditional game of introducing a toy elf into the house, Santa’s own spy, reminding the children to behave well and make the Nice list.

Come December, though, and it is time for some intense Christmas decorating! The Christmas Tree is picked and decorated, the stockings put up, the light show lit up… but there’s a part of the pre-capitalist Christmas that perseveres – the floral decorations. Floral bouquets make excellent Christmas presents for the dinner hostess. Several traditional plants find their way into most homes in December, and they have such neat origins, too!

Holly:

Deck the halls with boughs of Holly
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la

Holly has made its way into traditional lore. Its funky green leaves and red berries stick to the official seasonal color guide, and it looks stunning when combined with candlesticks, wreaths, and fruit baskets. The berries are toxic, however, so use it only for decorative purposes.

Mistletoe:

Great fake plastic Mistletoe
Wrap me in a great big bow
And tear me apart

Mistletoe is nothing more than a parasitic plant, except in December. It is traditional for two people to kiss should they meet under a bough of mistletoe, so it is often placed over doorways, and inside whichever room a Christmas party should take place. The original version of the tradition is to take a berry from the bough with every kiss, and when all the berries are gone, kissing under that particular bough ends.

Ivy:

Somebody hide me, from the love
It takes up all of your time
To fall in love with Ivy

This vine is bestowed with a religious connotation the year round. It is often grown on church walls, to protect the building from lightning. As ivy clings to a wall, it represents human souls clinging to God for support. This theme of faith made it a Christmas staple, and earned the plant a place in the traditional carol “The Holly and the Ivy”.

Poinsettia:

Now Percy the puny poinsettia
Is standing beside Mr. Tree
His leaves have never been redder,
He’s as proud as a flower can be

The Mexican winter plant known as Poinsettia is one of the most beautiful traditional flowers, and also one of the most fragile. The bright red petals look gorgeous anywhere in the house, but set against a snowy background, poinsettias truly take on a new life, resembling the Star of Bethlehem, and taking the plant from a pretty endemic flower, to a Christmas symbol.

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