The Christmas carol, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ reflects a pre-Christian celebration where a boy and a girl would be dressed in a suits of holly leaves and ivy respectively, to parade around the village, as a sign of the re-emergence of another year’s fertility. Under many Pagan religions, it was customary to place holly leaves and branches around their dwellings during winter. This was intended as a kindly and hospitable gesture; they believed that the tiny fairies which inhabited the forests could come into their homes and use the holly as shelter against the cold.
A common Celtic tradition says that there is a perpetual battle between two aspects of the nature god- the Oak King (the God of the waxing light, or the Divine Child) and the Holly king (the God of the waning light, or the Dark Lord). Each year at the summer solstice, the Holly King wins the battle and rules, until he is defeated by the Oak King at the time of the winter solstice. Some authors relate Creiddylad into this tale. (Creiddylad, daughter of King Lludd, is a minor character in the early medieval Welsh Arthurian tale Culhwch ac Olwen. Some also relate her to be the daughter of Ceridwen, through which she relates to another famous Druid Taliesin. A link seen more often.) The tale of Creiddylad can be read at the end of the page.
This evergreen plant is connected to life force and protection. Related to the oak it is part of the everlasting cycle of life, where holly plays the dorment role. the tree signifies growth and fertility and the red or blood, a tree of hope and a reminder of the renewal of the springtime to come. Holly promotes luck in men
Ilex or holly is a genus of 400 to 600 species of flowering plants in the family Aquifoliaceae, and the only living genus in that family. The species are evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, and climbers from tropics to temperate zones worldwide.The plants are generally slow-growing with some species growing to 25 m tall.
Ilex in Latin means the holm-oak or evergreen oak (Quercus ilex). Despite the Linnaean classification of Ilex as holly, as late as the 19th century in Britain, the term Ilex was still being applied to the oak as well as the holly – possibly due to the superficial similarity of the leaves. The origin of the word “holly” is considered a reduced form of Old English hole(ġ)n, Middle English Holin, later Hollen. The French word for holly, houx, derives from the Old Low Franconian *hulis (Middle Dutch huls). Both are related to Old High German hulis, huls, as are Low German/Low Franconian terms like Hülse or hulst. These Germanic words appear to be related to words for holly in Celtic languages, such as Welsh celyn, Breton kelen(n) and Irish cuileann.
During the dark and barren days of winter, holly has always been prized for its fresh green leaves and bright berries, signifying the green of growth and fertility and the red or blood, a tree of hope and a reminder of the renewal of the springtime to come. The Romans used it in their winter celebrations known as the Saturnalia, and this custom may have connected with the druids of that time.
Creiddylad (also known as Creirddylad, Creurdilad, Creudylad or Kreiddylat), daughter of King Lludd, is a minor character in the early medieval Welsh Arthurian tale Culhwch ac Olwen.
Creiddylad, daughter of Lludd Silver Hand, is a lady living at the court of King Arthur. Considered to be the most beautiful girl in the British Isles, she is loved by two of Arthur’s warriors: Gwythyr and Gwyn. Her rival suitors are thrust into conflict when Gwythyr abducts her from her father’s house, to which Gwyn retaliates by kidnapping her from Gwythyr. Due to Arthur’s intervention in the ensuing feud, the lady Creiddylad is returned to her father and an arrangement (a dihenydd, or “fate”) is made that forces the adversaries to engage in single combat for the object of their love every May Day—while she is destined to remain with her father, unmarried—until a final battle on Judgement Day, which will determine who keeps her forever. Creiddylad has been compared to the Greek springtime goddess Persephone.