And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
– Susan Cooper, The Shortest Day
“The holly and the ivy, when they were both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown. . .
I am the Holly King, Lord of the Waning Year. You may know me as the Green Man or as the Winter King. I rule from Midsummer to Midwinter, and my reign culminates in the festivities of Yuletide. As the wren dies to make way for the robin, soon I will bow before my brother the Oak King. You will not see me again until the Sun once more begins to wane. As I prepare to withdraw into the deep midwinter, I contemplate the glowing light of the reborn Sun in my cup — and in this holy grail, I see visions and dreams of the year to come.
Carry a sprig of holly with you as my token. It will protect you against fierce winter storms, and will bestow upon you the focus, direction and courage you need to succeed in your own spiritual quest.
Fill your homes with holly this season! Deck the halls! My evergreen leaves and bright red berries, seen against the barren oaks of winter, will remind you of the Life that sustains us during the bitterest time of the year.”
– The Holly King