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Christmas Trees and Greenery

These are a few pictures to do with trees and greenery. Wreaths are said to symbolise the coming of Christ, eternity, celebration, and have been around since before the Greeks and Romans. The ‘Reeves’ in N London were in a shop owned by a Turk who used to shift hundreds of Christmas trees every year, dressed up in full Turkish national costume. The two stylish chaps with their tree had just bought it from him. Christmas Trees are thought to have originated in eastern Europe in the 16th century and gradually spread west, arriving in Britain about 1800. The Norwegian spruce in Trafalgar Square is an annual gift from Oslo, since 1947, in appreciation of Britain’s support in the second world war. On 6 January it is taken down and chopped up for mulch – another telling bit of symbolism. The Yule Log was once an essential part of Christmas ritual, brought in with ceremony, lit to burn for the entire festive season, at the end of which an ember was kept to light next year’s log. The custom died out for the obvious reason that nobody has open hearth fires any more - but it lives on symbolically in the shape of log-shaped chocolate cakes. The ashen faggot is a related custom, now rare.

Legends abound concerning the Glastonbury Thorn. It is alleged that Joseph of Arimathea thrust his staff into the ground at Glastonbury and, lo!, a ‘Glastonbury Thorn’ grew up. Scholars refute this on the grounds that there is no proof Joseph was ever there. However there is no doubt that the hawthorn is there, a comparatively rare species (Crataegus monogyna ‘Biflorus’) found in numbers around Glastonbury, which can only be propagated by grafting. It flowers twice during the year, in spring as normal hawthorn and also around Christmas, which is its special characteristic, which led to it being the point of a unique custom. A week before Christmas, at the parish church, the Vicar, The Mayor, the choir and anyone else who wants to be there, gather round the Holy Thorn in the churchyard to cut a few budding sprigs to deliver to the Queen for Christmas. The custom began in the time of James I, but was occasional until the 1920s, when it became a unique annual event. In 1982 the verger claimed he ‘put the sprigs in a shoebox and posted them off to the Queen marked OHMS’ but we have seen a picture of a young fellow in school uniform actually presenting them to Her Majesty. Seems a more likely scenario.