Nature on our doorsteps - The 12 Species of Christmas

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

In the days before glitzy Christmas decorations, people looked to Nature for ways to brighten up the dark mid-winter.

So, instead of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’, how about a ‘12 Species of Christmas’ challenge, looking for 12 items from Nature that we associate with Christmas today?

Hollys red berries contrast nicely with its glossy green leaves compressor

Holly’s red berries contrast nicely with its glossy green leaves

Traditional Christmas scenes usually include the Robin perched on a branch of glossy green Holly or Ivy. Mistletoe brings a lighter shade of green, along with pairs of bright white berries.

Decorating Christmas trees indoors is a major tradition, and we often buy potted plants like the red Poinsettia or the trailing Christmas Cactus.

Pine cones are often used as decorations on wreaths, while in olden days the Christmas candle was made from natural beeswax, made by honeybees.

Of course, Santa’s Reindeer has to be on the list, and the quirky cartoon-like penguins we see on Christmas cards today, dressed in hats and gloves!

Mistletoe was regarded as a sacred plant by the ancient Druids compressor

Mistletoe was regarded as a sacred plant by the ancient Druids

Finally, in some parts of the country, the Wren is celebrated on St Stephen’s Day when locals ‘follow the wran’ by dressing up in comical outfits and going door to door, making noisy music and generally letting their hair down.

These ‘12 species of Christmas’ are only a fraction of the many cultural heritage traditions that show our connections to the natural world.

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