The holly and the … mistletoe: this week on The Green Room

Dec 15, 2016

Red and green are the traditional Christmas colors. But why? How did those colors get that distinction? 

“Because Holly was red and green, we’ve accepted those as the two Christmas colors,” says Coggin Heeringa. 


Holiday plants

Coggin teaches students about nature at Interlochen Arts Camp during the summer months. She says the connection between the Christmas holiday and plants has pagan roots and is mostly just about the time of year.

“If you think back at the ancient times, as you got deeper and deeper into December, it got darker and darker and all the plants were dying,” she says. “They (the people) had a special fondness for colors because that meant that these plants could overcome the evil of winter."

Mistletoe is another popular plant during the holiday season. The plant was considered a romantic plant by the Celtic druids of the first century. In the 18th century, it became popular for British servants to kiss under the plant, and the practice spread from there.

Megan Kellogg of Darling Botanical Company, says mistletoe sort of looks like tumbleweed caught in tree branches.
Credit BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

Megan Kellogg, owner of Darling Botanical Company in Traverse City, says the plant grows in the south, in warmer climates, and is actually a parasitic plant.

“It has a relationship with it’s host where the actual seed is dropped after it’s digested from a bird onto the branch of a tree, where it takes root into the branch," she explains. "When you’re in the South, you can see it sort of looks like tumbleweed growing up in the trees.”

Holiday lights

Awesome Mitten is a website highlighting culture in Michigan. They came out with a recent post about the best holiday light displays around the state.

Featured in that post was the home of Dave Mikowski of Traverse City. Dave has more than 15,000 lights, which are all synchronized to Christmas music which he broadcasts from a low power FM signal in his house.

Dave says when he started talking with his wife about buying the system, he told her that if he could get one child to smile, it would be worth it.

"I was lying," he says. "It was me. I was the child, and all these other people are all just bonuses at this point."

Dave says it still makes him smile to see all the lights when he pulls up in his driveway. He'll have the lights up through January 1, 2017.

You can see the light display for yourself at 9601 Kimberly Lane, in Traverse City.