1. lofty says

    I might as well lob in my wife’s poem on holly and stuff here…

    Holly and other words ending with olly

    Mrs Santa said “now really , dear,
    you must get ready, Christmas is here!”

    Alas, I’m very sorry to say,
    Santa was having a ‘bad hair day’,

    All sorts of things just got his goat,
    as he read through each Christmas note.

    “That Sue can’t have a pony right now –
    it would cause a tremendous row,

    since she’s living in a crowded flat,
    but John can have the Akubra hat.

    Teddy bears are in again this year,
    but worm-farms won’t bring lots of cheer.

    I need some good ideas to make it merry”,
    said Santa waving a glass of cooking sherry.

    “As the big day nears my elves are frantic,
    though I implore them not to panic.

    I’ll tell you one that has lost his nerve,
    and mislaid his hammer, poor old Merv.

    I think he has left it down at Roy’s,
    I’ll put him down to do soft toys.

    Most of the reindeer are extremely cross,
    ‘cos Rudolph has eaten all the Christmas moss.

    Why do I do this every year?
    With everyone so full of cheer?

    Can you imagine it all fading away?
    Never again to be a Christmas day?”

    So says Santa, he goes out stamping grimly,
    “It’d be nice not to see another chimney!”

  2. sundoga says

    What is the deal with Holly, anyway? It’s a pointy, nasty weed of a tree with poisonous berries. Aside rom looking nice, how’d such an unpleasent plant get associated with the solstice and christmas?

  3. Rey Fox says

    Aside from looking nice, how’d such an unpleasent plant get associated with the solstice and christmas?

    It’s evergreenness.

  4. kieran says

    The search for holly with berries begins and you realise every fecker in the country had the same idea yesterday!

  5. Aquaria says

    My grandmother had holly bushes around her porch. Worked like a charm to keep us from playing on the porch or near it.

  6. says

    I seem to remember that it also has something to do with the crown of thorns and the cruci-fiction (berries==drops o’ blood).

    So, typical mish-mosh really.

  7. Rumtopf says

    I always wondered why holly “forgets” to grow spikes sometimes. I assume it’s because these leaves are often in the middle or at the top of a high holly bush/tree so why bother. You find the spikeless alongside the spikes, and intermediate leaf versions too. I also know a strip of woodland around here that I could collect some spikeless, -variegated- holly from, and this stuff wasn’t planted there by people afaik.

    Mistletoe is cooler though, go go parasitic love symbols. :D

  8. Sili says

    We had two types of holly at home. This prickly one, and a non-prickly one. I assume it’s selective breeding.

    I think I’m gonna start wishing “Happy Hollydays!”, just to piss off the conservanuts off even more.

  9. RFW says

    We don’t have a native holly on the Left Coast. In the PacNW, the English holly, Ilex aquifolium, is a widespread weed tree, but imho it’s inferior to the holly native to the Right Coast, Ilex opaca, in that I.a.‘s berries are vermilion, an orange-tinged red, whereas I.o.‘s berries are generally a good clear red with no orange to it.

    Since this is, after all, Pharyngula, some mention of evolution seems in order. One has to presume that the birds of western Europe for some reason prefer slightly orange-ish red berries, whereas those of the eastern US prefer clear red. Or did the birds evolve to match the berries?

    On the Left Coast, there are two popular holly substitutes with red(dish) berries in winter: the toyon, whose botanical name I have either forgotten or never knew, and the madrona, Arbutus menziesii.

    The toyon is fairly common around San Francisco Bay, but is too tender to endure the sometimes fierce freezes we get further north.

    OTOH, the madrona is quite common in the PacNW, growing on rocky ground with excellent drainage. It reaches a considerable size surprisingly quickly, leading to the amusing spectacle of ignorant earth mothers ranting about the destruction of “centuries-old trees” when the trees in question are probably no more than a century old. It’s a lovely tree with smooth bark exposed by the peeling off of the outer bark, giving an effect something like that of the stewartias.

  10. woodsong says


    What is the deal with Holly, anyway? It’s a pointy, nasty weed of a tree with poisonous berries. Aside from looking nice, how’d such an unpleasent plant get associated with the solstice and christmas?

    Blame it on the Romans.

    From the link:

    Holly was the sacred plant of Saturn and was used at the Roman Saturnalia festival to honor him. Romans gave one another holly wreaths and carried them about decorating images of Saturn with it. Centuries later, in December, while other Romans continued their pagan worship, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus . To avoid persecution, they decked their homes with Saturnalia holly. As Christian numbers increased and their customs prevailed, holly lost its pagan association and became a symbol of Christmas.

    Why the Romans considered it sacred, I have no idea.

  11. says

    It seems that at least some of the hollies have a lot of caffeine or related xanthine drugs, like Theobromine(Chocolate) or Theophylline(Tea). In southern South America, the national drinks of Argentina, and Uruguay are a kind of Tea called Mate, made from a type of South American holly leaves that are dried, toasted and sometimes smoked. The very similar Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria, listed in the link native across the US south, was also used as a tea by the Native Americans, who called it Black Tea, and drank it ceremonially. The Confederate forces also drank it when the North blockaded them and coffee was not available. It is the berries of the yaupon, used by the natives as an emetic, that give rise to the latin name.