The 'Holy' Tree of Christmas
The approximate100,000 trees in the community-initiated man-made Terryland Forest Park are native Irish species such as ash, alder and oak. Not only do they provide rich havens to a wonderful diversity of wildlife, these trees have special religious and mythological associations with our Celtic pagan and Christian religious traditions.
Of special significance at this time of the year is the 'Holly' (Cuileann in Irish) tree. In Christian folklore it is associated with being a 'Holy' plant. Irish homes in times past were decorated with its branches at Christmas as the prickly leaves symbolized Christ’s crown of thorns and its bright red winter berries the drops of blood that he shed during his crucifixion.
My parents told me that as children they never saw a Christmas 'pine' Tree in their homes. Instead the walls were decked with boughs (branches) of holly, nailed to wooden beams or hung over picture frames. I continue this family tradition in my own house with branches cut from trees from our own garden as well as one solitary branch taken from Terryland Forest Park. I always make sure that I leave loads of berries on the trees for the benefit of the birds.
In the pagan Celtic period, this tree was identified with warrior prowess, the sun god Lugh and the harvest festival.