[ Appreciating Herbal Holidays ~ Herbal Ties that Bind ] ~ from HerbCo Company
[ Herbal Ties that Bind during the Holidays ] ~ from Herbco
As we enter the holiday season, we tend to draw our friends and loved ones closer than ever. But it’s also uplifting to reach out to our immediate communities at this time, as well as to the world beyond. One way to bridge the gap that often separates us from fellow humans is to recognize and appreciate the diverse range of customs that are celebrated within our ever-widening circles. Indeed, many of the holiday traditions that you may practice today, regardless of your religious affiliation, were likely passed on from the early Arabs, Muslims, Hebrews, Buddhists and African societies and originated from thousands of miles away.

As these groups migrated, they brought cuttings and seeds of many different plants to other regions, spreading their range of habitation.

The Christian Bible alone mentions more than 100 plants native to the Mediterranean and their common uses—from apples, black mustard and wormwood to frankincense and myrrh—that people of the Americas would otherwise never have known.

Naturally, these botanical enrichments translated to new foods, and holiday traditions enhanced with a form of communication known as the language of flowers and herbs.

For more than three millennia, long before an 800 number connected to a commercial florist, holly has inspired hope, fennel has conveyed flattery and thyme has invoked courage and strength.

[ Appreciating Herbal Holidays ~ Season of Diversity ] ~ from HerbCo

december around
the world

It might be cold and bleak outside, but there’s nothing dull about the month of December. In fact, it can be described as the season of diversity, ripe with teaching opportunities about our global neighbors and world traditions. This year, the winter holiday season begins on December 2 with Hanukkah, the eight-day Festival of Lights that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, an event made possible by an uprising against the oppressive Seleucid Empire. The seven-branched candelabrum of the menorah is said to be modeled after a species of wild sage native to the Sinai Desert, and the herb is a common flavor enhancer in many festival foods such as fried latkes.

On December 6, European children receive gifts on St. Nicholas Day, a holiday that honors Saint Nicholas of Myra, a bishop of ancient Greece and the forerunner of Santa Claus and Father Christmas. For those that embrace Pagan or other earth-centered philosophies, the Feast of Juul, or yule, marks the winter solstice, usually December 21, and celebrates the return of the light of the sun for 12 days. This is where the strong associations of evergreen boughs, garlands and wreaths, and the yule log fire lit on Christmas morning comes from, as in “deck the halls” and “troll [sing] the ancient yuletide carol.” Over time, these traditions, as well as the festival calendar dates, merged with the Christian Feast of the Nativity, also known as the Epiphany or The 12 Days of Christmas.


[ Appreciating Herbal Holidays ~ December Celebrations ] ~ from HerbCo

the day after
(plus one)

In England, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, Boxing Day, celebrated the day after Christmas, is also of significance, although it has nothing to do with exercising a pile of empty gift boxes created the day before. In contrast to the previous day, this day is observed by giving gifts specifically to those less fortunate.

Kwanzaa also begins on December 26, an African-American festival in which one candle on the Kinara (candleholder) is lit each night for seven nights to correspond with the seven symbols of the Nguzo Saba: 1. Umoja   Unity; 2. Kujichagulia   Self-Determination; 3. Ujima   Collective Work and Responsibility; 4. Ujamaa   Cooperative Economics
5. Nia   Purpose; 6. Kuumba   Creativity; 7. Imani   Faith; Herbs associated with these principles, in ascending order, include lemon verbena, sage, lavender, calendula, bay laurel, holly and mistletoe.

This is one more notable date in December that is uniquely American and non-secular in nature but nonetheless worthy of celebration: December 16. On this day in 1773, the Sons of Liberty, disguised as Mohawk Indians, raided and relieved three ships at Griffin's Wharf in Boston of 92,000 pounds of tea, dumping the entire lot into the Boston harbor in protest of taxation without representation in English parliament, an event now known as the Boston Tea Party. Honor these patriots in December by doing something deliciously (but legally) rebellious, tempered with a cup of your favorite black, green or herbal tea.

tea party

[ Appreciating Herbal Holidays ~ DIY scented candles ] ~ from HerbCo

three kings and
a carpenter

According to the Gospel of Matthew, three Magi followed a bright star in the east that led them to the infant Jesus, upon whom they bestowed myrrh, frankincense and gold. These three kings, also called the three wise men, are an expected component of traditional nativity scenes, and the inspiration for a resinous incense known as Three Kings Potpourri. It is composed of three ingredients: ground frankincense, ground myrrh and the dried flowers of a variety of yarrow called Achillea ‘Coronation Gold.’ Aside from the gold reference, the latter is included due to its association with Joseph the Carpenter in that the leaves are a traditional go-to for carpenters and others who work with their hands when a cut or nick that draws blood occurs. Otherwise, both myrrh and frankincense are still burned today in temples and churches and, in some parts of the world, in clinics for purification.

Another interpretation is that the “gold” the three kings presented was actually a hardwood called aloeswood. Let it be known that this was a highly prized wood back then and is cost prohibitive for most people even today, giving real meaning to the phrase “worth its weight in gold.” Also known as agarwood, this wood takes on a rich amber tone and becomes highly fragrant from the excessive production of resin in response to infection by a species of mold. Its musky, balsamic, vanilla-like fragrance is widely written about in the sacred texts of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity, all of which are thousands of years old.

three kings gifts

[ Appreciating Herbal Holidays ~ Brew Some Botanicals ] ~ from HerbCo

say it
with herbs

So many botanicals chronicle the season of giving and remembrance of friends and family, both living and past. The aroma of sweet spices— cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves—fill a home with welcoming scent as their fragrance escapes a warm oven or a bowl of dried fruits, or they are found tucked into tussie-mussies or simmering in mulled cider or wine. Sage pairs with squash and stuffing, thyme and oregano flavor root vegetables, bay laurel seasons roasts and game, fennel seed flavors soups and fish, and sprigs of rosemary and lavender hang from cupboards or grace a table centerpiece to remind us of the promise of the returning light. But there’s so much more to the symbolism of winter herbs.

Here’s a rundown of popular holiday herbs and their meanings...

Basil ~ love
Bay ~ success, honor
Fennel ~ worthy of praise, flattery
Rosemary ~ remembrance, fidelity
Thyme ~ courage, bravery
Hyssop ~ cleansing
Lavender ~ devotion
Marjoram ~ happiness
Mint ~ reminder of home
Oregano ~ joy
Parsley ~ feast, victory, removes bitterness
Sage ~ wisdom, long life


holiday HERB and SPICE favorites

Roast with chicken and potatoes. Pairs beautifully with thyme.


Excellent with roasted squash, pumpkin ravioli and other pasta dishes.

ginger root

ginger root
Perk up hot or iced teas, and bake in cookies and pumpkin pie.


Perk up hot or iced teas, and bake in cookies and pumpkin pie.


Use in braised chicken or turkey dishes (especially with dark meat), to flavor dessert coffees, pies and other baked goods.


Use to flavor custards, sautéed spinach, Northern Italian pasta dishes and homemade eggnog.

herbal holiday RECIPES to make tonight


holiday eggnog
It wouldn’t be winter without this creamy, delicious beverage. Let it snow while you sip!


roasted squash
This golden side dish is both savory and sweet.


rosemary shortbread
This shortbread cookie is wonderful as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up served with tea or coffee. Double the batch so you’ll have some on-hand for when unexpected guests appear.

check out these PINTEREST BOARDS for inspiration

and some of our other NEWSLETTERS that might be of interest