I am more than delighted to have my friend, THASC artist, Joyce Nielsen, adorn the pages of my blog once again. I often correspond with Joyce and she was very happy and proud to hear that I would be writing about her painting this week. Holly is commonly seen at holiday time, especially as a Christmas decoration used in wreaths and Christmas cards, like Joyce’s. The origin of the name “holly” means “prickly” and its use goes back to ancient times. The Druids hung it over doorways to ward off evil spirits. They regarded holly as the symbol of fertility and eternal life. They also believed that cutting down a holly tree would bring bad luck. The Romans identified holly with Saturn, the god of harvest, and during the feast of Saturnalia, they “decked the halls with boughs of holly.”
Holly bushes in front of my house
Holly leaves have sharp ends and a waxy texture and have male and female reproductive entities on separate plants. Only female plants can produce berries and it can only happen if a male plant is near to fulfill the process of pollination. Bees help transfer the pollen from male to female plants. Although the berries are toxic to humans, birds like thrushes thrive on them and scatter their seeds for the new holly plants to grow. Holly wood (NOT Hollywood!) is hard and excellent for carving chess pieces. Holly is known for its vivid red berries but it is also supposed to bring males good luck and protection. Ivy is the female counterpart to holly.
holly and mistletoe
You can also notice white berries and mistletoe in Joyce’s painting. The mistletoe, common to North America and used as a Christmas decoration, grows as a parasite on trees. In Europe it was also hung above house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. Like holly, it was considered to bestow fertility. Kissing under mistletoe is first found with the festival of Saturnalia and with primitive marriage rites. The English invented the “kissing ball” under which a young lady could not refuse to be kissed because it could signify deep romance. Otherwise she could not expect to marry the next year. In France, mistletoe was reserved for the New Year, but today kissing is done throughout the holiday season.
The beautiful aura of candlelight in Joyce’s painting has not been extinguished. Especially in these times of uncertainty in the world, it gives great significance to all of us that hope is alive and well and living among us. Thank you for another meaningful painting, my friend.
This greeting card and other holiday cards are available at www.thasc.com.
Continue to enjoy your holiday season and I’ll see you next Tuesday when we take a look at “HOLIDAY LIGHTS.”