Bringing in the Green

Up until recent decades, ‘bringing in the green’ was one of the most widespread features of the season. Evergreen plants were collected from gardens, woods and hedgerows and used to decorate hearths, make wreaths and bedeck houses and churches. Stow, in his Survey of London (1603), recorded that not only were houses and churches decorated with evergreens, but also the conduits, standards, and crosses in the streets. [1] These decorations were either taken down on Twelfth Night or as late as Candlemas. The custom is ancient – the Romans decorated their houses with evergreens during the Saturnalia and Kalends, and in spite of church condemnations they survived. In the sixth century the Bishop Martin of Braga forbade the adorning of houses with laurels and green trees.

The Christmas evergreens had a sacred nature, as evidenced by their careful hanging and disposal. In Shropshire people never threw them away for fear of misfortune, but either burnt them or gave them to the cows; it was very unlucky to let a piece fall to the ground. The Shropshire custom was to leave the holly and ivy up until Candlemas, while the mistletoe-bough was carefully preserved until the time came for a new one next Yule.

For the old Pagans, the evergreen was a symbol of immortality as it had the power to survive the winter death that struck down all other forms of vegetation. Evergreens represent the continuation of life during the death time of winter. Particularly precious were plants like the holly, ivy and mistletoe which actually bear fruit in the winter-time. Decorating your home with evergreens is an act of magic far more significant than tacking up shiny plastic decorations.

© Anna Franklin

[1] Thomas K. Hervey, The Book of Christmas, The Folklore Society, 1888


Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

One thought on “Bringing in the Green”

  1. I love these traditions! My mom keeps such activities alive and I feel really lucky that she passed them down to me, even though she didn;t present them as pagan activities akin to witchcraft, I totally do see it that way.


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