THE 12 PLANTS OF CHRISTMAS: IVY

Dec 12, 2015: Ivy, the old Christmas associate of holly, is an evergreen. Most Christmas plants are evergreen. Deciduous plants have never figured big for the holiday season. I guess that's why they call it Christmas greenery and not Christmas twiggery.

The Celts used ivy as winter home decor thousands of years ago. Its winter greenery was a symbolism of resurrection and life to them. The Greeks, on the other hand, associated ivy with fidelity because of its propensity to cling to things. The Romans associated it with Bacchus, the god of wine, and wore ivy wreathes on their head to prevent intoxication. In Christianity, ivy had a more checkered past. At first, it was considered satanic as it grew in the shade and hence could be associated with deception and debauchery, but then somehow that view changed. It was reaccepted into the approved list of Christmas flora because ivy clings to things and hence reminds us of how we should cling to God.

I find all these botanical symbolic interpretations to be interesting but perhaps a bit dated and less relevant to our concerns today. I think it's time to start new plant symbolisms and I'm ready to suggest a few. From looking out my window into my yard, here's a few I can think of. The big leaf maple tree symbolizes to me bowel troubles. Every fall it drops its big leaves which clog my gutters and downspouts. My larch, a deciduous conifer that drops its needles every fall, symbolizes male hair loss. The old red alder tree by the creek, which has got crown dieback and heart rot and has fungus conks growing on it, symbolizes the gradual decay, yet tenacity, of old age. The . . . . you know, this is starting to sound a little too personal. Maybe it's best to stick with the take of the ancients.

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