Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Flower and Fauna ~ Peace and Love

Christmas Wreaths

The wreaths have been used as Christmas decorations and represent an unending circle of life and growth. The wreaths made of evergreens in pine branches or holly decorate the doors, mantle, and windows of Christian homes. The wreath in holly branches has thorns, which represent the thorns on Jesus' Crown when he was crucified.

Today, beautiful artificial wreaths are also in vogue

The origin of the Wreaths can be traced to the Pre Christian Germanic People who gathered evergreen lighted wreaths in the dark freezing months of December to welcome the coming spring and renewed light.

The Christians embraced this tradition and by the 16th century both Catholics and Protestants were using these symbols to celebrate the advent of Jesus. Advent is a time to pray, confess and purge oneself to welcome Jesus with a pure heart. Traditionally, the wreath consisted of four candles. The three candles were in violet (purple) and the fourth one was rose (pink). It is said that sometimes four white candles or four violet candles were used in the wreath. These four candles represent 4 weeks of preparation.

On the fourth Sunday before Christmas or the first Sunday of the Advent the first violet candle symbolizing hope is lit and a short prayer is offered to Jesus who is about to take the mortal form. It is followed by lighting a purple candle that stands for love on the Second Sunday, pink candle, which represents joy on the third Sunday and finally the symbol of peace the purple candle on the fourth Sunday of Advent.

We as Americans leave evergreen wreath's on the graves of fallen soldiers to show our everlasting respect for the lives they bravely gave for our countries safety.

Christmas wreaths have been around for hundreds of years and have been used for various purposes around the globe, but here in New England, the traditional evergreen wreath is a holiday mainstay.

And whether adorning a door or a window, area residents seem to be simplifying their wreaths more and more. Twenty or 30 years ago, people used to have their wreaths decorated with pine cones and silver and gold balls.

The trend right now is just to have a plain wreath; there aren’t as many heavily decorated out there these days. About the only exception to the scaled-back rule is the front-door wreath for many folks.
On the front door, they’ll have something a little more special because that’s the entrance to their home. They might have plain ones on their windows, but they want the front door punched up a little more.

From all the members of the Carey Family we wish you all Peace, Love, a Very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and A Happy, Healthy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Flower/Fauna The Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

The illuminated Christmas tree is one of the most cherished symbols of the Christmas festivities. Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir and white pine are the common varieties that are used today. In the past, cherry and hawthorns trees were used.

The tradition of decorating the Christmas tree can be traced to the 7 th century AD. A monk went to Thuringia, Germany to preach the gospel and used the triangular shape of the fir Tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The people who had embraced the new faith began to respect the Fir Tree as God's Tree. It is said that by 12th century the tree was being hung upside down as a symbol Christianity.

The city Riga in Latvia, in 1510 is credited with decorating the first Christmas tree. There is also 16 th century record of the visitor in Germany who noted that a tree decorated with wafers and golden sugar-twists (Barleysugar) and paper flowers of all colors. There was also use of tinsel in the decorations of the tree.

In England, the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree came from Germany. The concept became popular during the time of Queen Victoria. Initially, the decoration was done with small bead decorations, snowflakes, star, sewing little pouches, candles, and silver tinsel however gradually over decoration' became the usual norm. Anything that could possibly go into the tree as ornamentation was placed with much fervor and gaiety.

• The period also saw the popularization of the concept of the themed trees like a color theme ribbons or balls, the Oriental Tree and the Egyptian Tree.

• The German Hessian Soldiers introduced the tree to America. Here, the decoration of the tree here was influenced by the customs of England.
In Catholic Countries, the origin of the Christmas tree is usually traced from the mystery plays', which were popular in the middle ages. One of the plays was the Paradise Play'. The play revolved around the story of Adam and Eve, their sin and eventual banishment from the heaven. The Paradise Tree' laden with apples was the only prop used in the play. At the appropriate time, the Eve used to bite the fruit and give to Adam. Later the mystery plays were forbidden due to certain immoral practices, which had crept the system.

However, the people who had got used to the Paradise Tree started placing the tree in their homes on Dec. 24. According to the Eastern Church Tradition December 24 was the feast day of Adam and Eve. The Paradise tree represented both a tree of sin and a tree of life. The people decorated the tree with apples representing the fruit of sin and homemade wafers that represented the fruit of life. Later, candy and sweets were also used for decorating the tree.

The evergreen Christmas tree has always represented a celebration of the renewal of life at a time of death, darkness and cold at the winter.

Here in New England it's almost a standard memory for people going out to pick out their Christmas tree's with their family.

The cold air, the BEST tree, the ride home, the hot cocoa mom would make.....and dad under the Christmas tree quietly......swearing ;)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Poinsettia is regarded as an important Christmas flower . There are various legends and stories related to the flower , poinsettia. Poinsettias are native to Mexico. They were named after America's first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. He brought the plants to America in 1828. The Mexicans in the eighteenth century thought the plants were symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem . Therefore, the Poinsettia became associated with the Christmas season. The actual flower of the poinsettia is small and yellow. But surrounding the flower are large, bright red leaves, often mistaken for petals. Poinsettias are much-loved Christmas flowers in the United States with its stunning red star-shape. It is called the 'Flower of the Holy Night' or the 'Flame Leaf' in Central America. The botanical name, Euphorbia Pulcherrima, was assigned to the poinsettia by the German botanist, Wilenow. Dazzled by its color, he gave it this name meaning 'very beautiful.'

The legends associated with the flowers come from Mexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. Each year a large manger scene was set up in the village church, and the days before Christmas were filled with parades and parties. The two children loved the festival but were always disappointed because they had no money to buy gifts. They especially wished that they could present something to the church for the Baby Jesus. But they had nothing. One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, they decorated them into a small bouquet and deciding to take them as their Christmas gift to the new born Christ in the manger scene.

Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. Of course other children teased them when they arrived with their gift, but they said nothing for they knew they had given what they could. Maria and Pablo began placing the green plants around the manger and miraculously, the green top leaves turned into bright red petals, and soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers , all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes. From that day onwards poinsettias are associated with the festival of Christmas and are known of the most beautiful and significant Christmas flowers .

Monday, December 20, 2010


Mistletoe is one such Christmas flower whose origin dates back to the Pagan origin. Druid priests used this Christmas flower two hundred years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the flower since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter. The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits.

This Christmas flower plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace. Scandinavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and probably from this belief it may be derived that the custom of kissing under the mistletoe started since it is associated with the goddess of love. It is believed that those who kissed under the mistletoe during Christmas had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.

According to the custom they would gather this evergreen Christmas flower that is parasitic upon other trees and use it to decorate their homes as a part of Christmas decoration. Scandinavians also symbolizes mistletoe as a flower of peace and harmony. The early church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmas celebrations because of its pagan origins. Instead, church fathers suggested the use of holly as an appropriate substitute for Christmas greenery.

North American Indians used it for toothache, measles and dog bites. Today the plant is still used medicinally, though only in skilled's a powerful plant.

Although many sources say that kissing under the mistletoe is purely English custom, there's another more charming explanation for it's origin that extends back into Norse mythology. It's a story of a loving, if overprotective, mother.

The Norse god Balder was the best loved of all the gods. His mother was Frigga, goddess of love and beauty. She loved her son so much that she wanted to make sure no harm would come to him. So she went through the world, securing promises from everything that sprang from the four elements--fire, water, air, and earth--that they would not harm her beloved Balder.
Leave it to Loki, a sly, evil spirit, to find the loophole. The loophole was mistletoe. He made an arrow from its wood. To make the prank even nastier, he took the arrow to Hoder, Balder's brother, who was blind. Guiding Holder's hand, Loki directed the arrow at Balder's heart, and he fell dead.
Frigga's tears became the mistletoe's white berries. In the version of the story with a happy ending, Balder is restored to life, and Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the reputation of the offending plant--making it a symbol of love and promising to bestow a kiss upon anyone who passes under it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Flower/Fauna


Holly is one of the important Christmas Flowers.
This flower is associated not only with Christianity but with Romans and Islam.

It is regarded as a symbol of good luck in both Islam and Roman. For centuries, holly has been the subject of myths, legends, and customary observances. This Christmas Flower is usually associated with masculinity and a good luck charm.

It is used in decoration of home during Christmas time, and is regarded as a symbol of delight and enjoyment that brings up thoughts of celebration and good cheer. The Romans used the Christmas flower to decorate their houses, temples, and deities for Saturnalia, the mid-winter feast. They exchanged holly boughs as symbols of kindness and friendship, which acted as a bond of love and togetherness.

This practice is believed to be the predecessor of holly's use in Christmas celebrations. Later on, in December, while other Romans continued their pagan worship, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus as the festival of Christmas . As Christians increased in number and their customs prevailed, Holly lost its pagan associations and became a symbol of Christmas and a Christmas Flower.

The flower Holly has come to stand for tranquility, joy and enjoyment. People often settle disputes under a holly tree. This Christmas Flower is believed to frighten off witches and evil spirits and protect the home from thunder and lightning. In Western England it is believed that twigs of holly around a young girl's bed on Christmas Eve would keep away naughty little goblins. In Germany, a piece that has been used in church decorations is regarded as magic against lightning. The English also mention the "he holly and the she holly" as being the deciding factor in who will dominate the household in the following year, the "he holly" have thorny leaves while a "she holly" have smooth ones. Other beliefs include, putting a sprig of holly on the bedpost would bring sweet dreams and also making a tonic from holly could be a cure for cold it has medicinal properties also. (btw - I wouldn't try the tonic thing ewww)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Flower - Ivy


Ivy is an important Christmas Flower .

This flower is symbolic in many ways with the festival of Christmas . It symbolizes three facts, it clings; it thrives in the shade; and it is evergreen. Its clinging has made the ivy a traditional symbol of the, albeit now unpopular, image of the helpless female clinging to her man for protection.(yeah right fela's which one of you believes this one) It also signifies true love, faithfulness, and undying affection - both in marriage and in friendship.

Christian symbolists consider the ivy's need to cling to a support emblematic of frail humanity's need for divine support. Like most of the other Christmas Flower , the ivy symbolizes eternity and resurrection. It has been associated with the Egyptian god, Osiris, and the Greco-Roman god, Attis; both of whom were resurrected from the dead.

At Christmas time, ivy is used only on the outside of the building, which represents mortality, because Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, the giver of everlasting life and destroyer of death. Greenery was also brought indoors to freshen the air and brighten the mood during the long, dreary winter.

Ivy's everyday meaning ~ Wedded Love, Fidelity, Friendship, Affection. For these beautiful meanings ivy is often tucked into brides bouquets year round.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Christmas Rose

The Christmas Rose

The association of Christmas flowers with the celebration of Christmas is something, which is permanent. Christmas Rose is a celebrated English plant (this means they have it in England not here) that is regarded as a true Christmas flower . It is sometimes called the Snow or Winter Rose. It blooms during the winter season in the mountains of Central Europe.

According to legends the Christmas flower is linked with the birth of Christ and a modest shepherd maiden named Madelon. As Madelon tented her sheep one cold and wintry night, wise men and other shepherds passed by the snow-covered field where she was with their gifts for the Christ Child. The wise men carried the rich gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense and the shepherds, fruits, honey and doves. Poor Madelon began to weep at the thought of having nothing to offer, not even a simple flower for the Newborn King, as she was very poor indeed. And as she stood there weeping, an angel passing saw her sorrow, and stooping he brushed aside the snow at her feet revealing a most beautiful white flower tipped with pink - the Christmas rose.

Also in northern and central Europe it is a tradition to break off a branch of a cherry tree at the beginning of the Advent and keep it in water in a warm room; the flowers should burst into bloom at Christmas time.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Flowers

Christmas Flowers

Christmas is a winter festival and green indicates the hope that spring will return and reign victorious over winter. (Yay green) Green is associated with the tall evergreens, which symbolizes triumph, longevity and immortality. It is the color, which signifies the abundant providence of nature in the woods and in the fields. It brings us joy, love, and tranquility.

Green is the season of spring, which brings life, but winter brings death. So during Christmas people welcome this color with the hope that spring will return. Each Christmas flower has a particular significance and a role to play. Each of the flowers signifies peace, love and prosperity. So association of flowers likes Christmas rose , Holly , Ivy and Mistletoe all have a special significance.

During the Roman winter festival of Saturnalia, Romans decorated with and gave gifts of green plants, such as holly, for good luck. Green is also considered lucky in the Islamic tradition where green gifts may be given on any morning to wish someone a lucky day. Green has also been associated with justice, freedom, kindness, sympathy, charity, gaiety, and peace. The festival of Christmas is all about celebrating life and mankind and the color of green symbolizes that celebration.

Each day going forward I am going to post about an important Christmas flower and it's meaning. I hope you stay tuned to find out the significance of your families favorite Christmas flower tradition. Whether you know it or not each family does have a Christmas flower/fauna tradition. This seems especially true to me here in New England where family, home and tradition are still the bedrock of our lives.

I would love to invite you to come into our shop and stroll through all of the beauty of Christmas. We are located directly across the street from the South Hadley High School at 300 Newton St. (Rte. 116)
South Hadley, MA 01075. 413-536-0444 or at but online you do miss the beauty of the shop and all of the happy people that work here and would love to help you pick out that special something for that special someone.

Another reason you should stop in....we are our OWN tradition our family has been happily serving your family/families since 1912. Can you do the math? that's 98 years on Jan 1st 2011 we will be in our 99th year of family flowers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mistletoe - Buy the fake stuff

Mistletoe - Buy the fake stuff

Bet that got your attention! I'm serious, buy the fake stuff wherever you find it. I get alot of questions about mistletoe, they all come very last minute, with concerns about poison (it is poisonous) and with the words "I don't want to spend much money" For all of the above reasons we don't carry fresh mistletoe. However I can tell you about mistletoe so you have the information you need to make an informed decision and go out and buy the fake stuff.


Mistletoe is especially interesting botanically because it is a partial parasite (a "hemiparasite"). As a parasitic plant, it grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients. But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own; like other plants it can produce its own food by photosynthesis. Mistletoe, however, is more commonly found growing as a parasitic plant. There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees in the west as well as in those growing in a line down the east from New Jersey to Florida. The other type of mistletoe, Viscum album, is of European origin. The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous. It commonly seen on apple but only rarely on oak trees. The rarer oak mistletoe was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans. The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs

The Mistletoe Magic :
From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison (even thought it is poisonous); and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the "soul" of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions. The Greeks also thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire.(untrue!) This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning.(untrue!) The traditions which began with the European mistletoe were transferred to the similar American plant with the process of immigration and settlement.

Kissing under the mistletoe :
Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. They probably originated from two beliefs. One belief was that it has power to bestow fertility. It was also believed that the dung from which the mistletoe would also possess "life-giving" power. In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. Later, the eighteenth-century English credited with a certain magical appeal called a kissing ball. At Christmas time a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill. If the girl remained unkissed, she can expect not to marry the following year. In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry. Whether we believe it or not, it always makes for fun and frolic at Christmas. Even if the pagan significance has been long forgotten, the custom of exchanging a kiss under the mistletoe can still be found in many European countries as well as in Canada. Thus if a couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life. In France, the custom linked to mistletoe was reserved for New Year's Day: "Au gui l'An neuf" (Mistletoe for the New Year). Today, kisses can be exchanged under the mistletoe any time during the holiday season.

The Legend :
For its supposedly mystical power mistletoe has long been at the center of many folklore. One is associated with the Goddess Frigga.
The story goes that Mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun. Balder had a dream of death which greatly alarmed his mother, for should he die, all life on earth would end. In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son. Balder now could not be hurt by anything on earth or under the earth. But Balder had one enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was lowly mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it , striking Balder dead. The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. He was finally restored by Frigga, the goddess and his mother. It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a decree that who should ever stand under the humble mistletoe, no harm should befall them, only a kiss, a token of love. What could be more natural than to translate the spirit of this old myth into a Christian way of thinking and accept the mistletoe as the emblem of that Love which conquers Death? Its medicinal properties, whether real or imaginary, make it a just emblematic of that Tree of Life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations thus paralleling it to the Virgin Birth of Christ.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Getting your Christmas cactus to bloom

Getting your Christmas cactus to bloom

Otherwise know as "How do I get this little sucker to bloom at the RIGHT time of year!"

Christmas cactus blooms are triggered by short days and/or cool nights. Buds form in late October or early November when daylight is less than 12 hours. Buds also will set when night temperatures are 55-60 degrees.

To make absolutely sure your plants will bloom at Christmas, you should have started your light control in October.

It's difficult to control night temperatures, but you can provide uninterrupted overnight darkness. Place the plant in an unheated closet for 13 hours a day beginning in October and continue until color appears. The plant will bloom in six to eight weeks. That's traditional advice.

However I say,
Some people do put their plants in a closet every night with no problem. But Christmas cacti can be finicky about being moved frequently, and react by shedding their buds. An alternative is to leave your plants in place and cover them with paper bags at night. That's just me though (shrug)

Regardless, once flower buds do appear, give them bright light, or even a bit of direct sun, and daytime temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. Keep the soil barely moist and pinch off spent flowers.

Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii, is a sprawling, jointed Brazilian native that produces 3-inch tubular blooms in pink, red, purple, fuchsia or white. It needs well-drained, porous, organic soil and bright light. Winter sun is OK, but summer rays burn the foliage.

Water when the top of the soil is dry. Apply a balanced fertilizer during the growing season. Flush the soil occasionally to prevent salt buildup. Stop or reduce fertilizing in fall.

Prune after it blooms, removing one or two of the flattened stem segments that act as leaves (phylloclades). This encourages branching and future blooms.

Bud drop is caused by above-90 temperatures, sudden temperature changes, dry soil or poor light after buds set. Ethylene gas, produced when there's poor ventilation near a heater or fireplace, also causes bud drop. Christmas cactuses survive temperatures from 35 to 100 degrees, but grow best in 65- to 85-degree temperatures. They can live more than 20 years.

After Blooming

Once all the blooms fade, move your Christmas cactus to a cool room to rest. Be sure to protect the plant from frost and freezing temperatures. The cactus may melt away if temperatures drop to the low 30s.
Let the soil go dry between waterings. Don’t ever let the soil stay soggy, especially during cooler weather, as root rot can be lethal. But if the fleshy stems show signs of shriveling, water right away.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Propagation of your Christmas cactus

Propagation of your Christmas cactus

It’s easy to make more Christmas cacti.

Just gently pinch and twist a stem at its top joint (where you see the little 'hairs'), then pull it free.

Commercial growers typically take cuttings right after the first of the year, then grow them in greenhouses. But it’s a lot less trouble to wait until the weather warms up in late spring or early summer. Ideal temperatures for rooting are between 70 and 75 degrees.

If you’re shaping your plants at the same time, you can pinch off a stem containing up to four segments. Let your cuttings sit a few days in a cool, dry place, then bury about a quarter of the bottom segment of each in a loose, fast-draining medium.

You can also purchase root tone from your local family owned brick and mortar garden center and go directly from plant to soil. Pinch off, dampen end that will be going into soil, dip into root tone, bury about a quarter of the bottom segment in the soil.

Because these plants like to be tightly kept in a pot use a small pot and I always place many segments into one small (tiny) pot. This allows for a fuller plant and if any segment die you can just pluck them out and still have something left.

Give the cuttings bright light and even moisture. You should see signs of life within several weeks. Commercial growers expect a new tier of growth every six weeks, but your results may vary. Water your new plants about once a week. As they grow larger, let the top layer go dry, as under-watering is better than over-watering.

With proper care you can give a Christmas cactus to every family member next Christmas. Attach a small handmade tag that explains you are starting a family tradition that will last for many, many generation. You will be the hit of the family for starting such a special and long lasting tradition.