British Isles Customs: Red berried holly with green and white ivy are used as decorations. A thammag-phaagey: kissing bunch made of holly, ivy, mistletoe (missel: thrush + toe: twig), greenery, apples, oranges, paper roses, ribbons & dolls is placed in the home.
The Holly King and the Ivy Queen
Dramas are enacted with Holly, the Green King of Winter, The Green Man battling The Oak King, King of the Waxing Year, for the hand of the Ivy Queen, Spring Maiden, the Goddess. The Silver Branch of Celtic mythology, mistletoe, cut from oak trees is thought to have healing powers and a token of entrance into the Immortal World. In Welsh it is druidh his - Druids Weed The seeds of European mistletoe plants germinate only after being digested and passed by birds. The berry of mistletoe plants is a favorite treat of the mistel thrush. (3, 12)
The Mari Llwyd (Grey Mare) Marw Llwyd (Grey Death)
These are white-sheeted mummers bearing torches and a bony horses head fantastically adorned with colored ribbons, papers, and brilliant streamers. Small boys dress up as bears, foxes, squirrels & rabbits. All doors in the parish are shut when it is known that the Mari Llwyd commences her itinerary. The mummers would recount in song the hard fate of mankind & the poor in the dark & cold days of winter. Then the leading singer would beg those inside to be generous with their cakes & beer & other good things... ..Then the great bowl of hot spiced beer was produced, & an ample supply of cakes... ..The feast began & continued for a short time, & when the Mari Llwyd moved away the leader found contributions of money in his collecting bag. The horse is the a symbol of the dying year. (7)
Tan chliaghtey cur hibbin, hollin, as hilley millish, ayns ny thieyn ec yn Ollick cheet veih ny Drui. Vad smooinaghtyn dy row ny spyrrydyn, va freayll ad geayney fegooish fioghey, yinnagh freayll ny thieyn, as adsyn va cummal ayndoo sauchey cour yn gheurey. Ye ec y traa van ghrian jeeaghyn dy ye coayl yn varriaght, as eisht ghow ee toshiaght dy irree reesht.
Tan guil gaase er yn villey ooyl, as er yn villey darragh, as cha vel eh dy bragh bentyn rish y thalloo. Shen yn oyr veh cha casherick da ny Drui. (17)
The custom of putting ivy, holly, and bay-leaf in the houses at Christmas comes from the Druids. They thought that the spirits, that kept them green without withering, would keep the houses, and those that were living in them, safe for the winter. It was at the time the sun seemed to be losing the victory, and then it began to rise again.
The mistletoe grows on the apple tree and on the oak tree, and it never touches the ground. That is the reason it was so sacred to the Druids. (17)