The Romans originated the tradition of cutting a holly branch and bringing it inside for Saturnalia.
When I was growing up I learned it was bad luck to bring ivy inside. I have NO idea of the logic behind this prohibition. I do know that every time I see one sold for use as a house plant I think it should come with some kind of warning label.
I’ve been playing Christmas songs on my ukulele and got curious about the lyrics of “The Holly and the Ivy.” I learned that these two evergreens have a long history of appearing in traditional songs. Here’s a snip of one verse in case this song is unfamiliar to you:
The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
I kept finding songs about hollies and ivies. Here’s a piece praising holly:
Holly beareth berries, berries red enough
The thistlecock, the poppingjay, dance in every bough
Welaway, sorry Ivy, what fowls hast thou,
But the sorry howlet that singeth “How-how?’
I don’t know why but ivy lyrics often seem to offer this kind of faint praise:
Ivy is both fair and green
in winter and in summer also,
and it is medicinable I ween,
who know the virtues that long thereto:
It is good and lusty
and in his kind a well good tree.
I kept looking around for a better verse about ivy but gave up eventually. I did find a nice reel in the plant’s honour. I guess people who like ivy are more musical than lyrical.
But people! What need for a contest? Can’t we all just get along? Both plants are green in winter. What’s not to like?