The holly bears a berry, as red as any blood.

At least 15 years ago I bought a holly wreath for my front door and after Christmas, as it still looked so fresh, I stuck a few of the holly pieces into pots of cutting compost. All that growing season nothing happened although the shoots remained healthy looking. We moved house, the pots came too and all through the winter, nothing happened. The following spring a few tiny roots appeared on one cutting and that autumn I planted the cutting in the garden.

Not what you might call a rapid grower, the bush is now about knee high and 3 feet wide, and this year bears a berry. Just one. There it is, in the picture above.

Continuing the theme of holly lore-the berries have of course come to symbolise the shedding of Christ’s blood, as told in the carol of the Holly and the Ivy,

“The holly bears a berry
as red as any blood,
as Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
to do poor sinners good.”

But the ideas behind the lyrics probably date back into pre-Christian time and are concerned with earlier beliefs and practises. The Daily Telegraph shed a little light onto the origins of the carol and its lyrics here.


Today is the shortest day, the winter solstice, when for us Northern hemisphere dwellers the sun is at its most southerly point and there are fewest daylight hours. To those in the south, this is obviously reversed. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s nearly Spring!

In Celtic mythology, today is the day when the Holly King , ruler of the year from Midsummer to Midwinter was defeated by the Oak King, symbol of the new year and the returning sun . I read that the Holly King was associated with wrens, and the Oak King with robins, 2 little birds that are regular visitors to the garden.

And today, the robins have been singing, as I prepare for the arrival of the family and start clearing out debris-early spring cleaning. And now the candles are lit, the lights are on the Christmas tree, and the house is scented with cinnamon, oranges and cloves.