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.


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