Trimmings for a Carolina Christmas
by John B. Green III
Since time out of mind, Europeans have been bringing evergreen foliage into their homes and sacred places at this time of year. It served to give hope of renewed life during the bleakness of winter.
Eastern North Carolinians continued the tradition, especially after decorating for Christmas became popular in the mid-19th century. A variety of native evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines were enlisted to give a festive air to homes, businesses, and churches. You could gather your own greenery or buy it from farmers and other country dwellers who made extra money at Christmas time by harvesting wagon loads of holly and cedar for sale in the towns and cities.
|Morning New Bernian, 19 December 1922.|
|The Daily Journal (New Bern), 20 December 1905.|
For garlands and arrangements natives such as American Holly,
|American Holly, Ilex opaca|
|Loblolly Pine, Pinus taeda|
|Bamboo Vine, Smilax laurifolia|
For Christmas trees, the universal favorite was the native Red Cedar which came complete with bluish-white berries for ornaments.
|Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana|
|Eastern Mistletoe, Phoradendron serotinum|
All these native plants still grow in abundance in Eastern North Carolina, but they have mostly been replaced with non-native firs and various plastic replicas. Perhaps it's time to revive a few of the old ways and deck the halls with holly and pine and bamboo vine!