Some Christmas decorations, still popular today, are adopted from old winter solstice traditions.  

Midwinter – the longest night/shortest day – marks the turning point and the beginning of the waning of winter. The four seasons cycle as the Earth turns on its axis in relation to the sun, and over the centuries traditional practices across the world have observed and celebrated this ongoing cycle. 

During the hardships and long cold nights of winter in places such as northern Europe, winter solstice, marking the turn of the seasons towards summer, is associated with thoughts of rebirth and regeneration. Traditionally, the winter solstice was celebrated with people gathering and sharing food together, with many festive traditions incorporating natural elements, including evergreen plants (such as holly, ivy and mistletoe), as well as fire and light. In pre-urban communities, nature and the seasons were central to survival and this was reflected in solstice celebrations.

Decoractive wild freesia in a suburban garden

In keeping with festive traditions incorporating nature and the fact that it is summer here in South Africa, to mark this holiday season, I thought it appropriate to highlight festively decorative plants that I have photographed in our garden.

Yellow Everlasting in wildlife gardenDecorative fruit of the Dovyalis caffraYellow hotpoker in flower

Yellow approximates to golden, and is a cheerful and celebratory colour. Pictured above are the Yellow Everlasting (Helichrysum Cooperi), fruit of the Kei Apple (Dovyalis caffra), and a close-up of a yellow hotpoker (one of the Kniphofias) bejewelled with raindrops.

Flower of Wild PomegranateWild Pomegranate in flower in wildlife gardenleonotis-leonurus

The orange trumpets of Wild Pomegranate (Burchellia bulbinea) display a similar rich orange as the Wild Dagga (Leonotis leonorus).

Powderpuff tree in flower

Naturally decorated like a Christmas tree is the Powderpuff Tree (Barringtonia racemosa) that occurs in the wild along the fringes of swamps.

berula-erectaDecorative flower and bud of a crinum lilyShowy display of the wild iris in a suburban garden in South Africa

Resembling crystal baubles, raindrops adorn the waterplant Berula erecta, elegant stamens decorate one of the impressive Crinum lilies, and the extravagant display of the wild iris, Dietes grandiflora, demonstrate that bright white can be just as showy as brilliant colour.

Flowers of the Krantz Aloe in a wildlife gardengreyia-sutherlandii-1

Ending as we began, with a show of traditionally festive red – the Krantz Aloe (Aloe arborescens) and the Natal Bottlebrush (Greyia Sutherlandii).

Even for individuals who do not celebrate Christmas, as the year comes to an end and the seasons turn, this is a time for taking stock of the year that has passed and to make plans for the year ahead. 

Wishing you a safe and happy festive season, and with best wishes for the New Year ahead.

Posted by Carol letting nature back in