The ilex or holly, and the ivy, both evergreen plants are traditional Christmas symbols: the holly for part of the same reason as the Glastonbury Rose is, because it represents the Crown of Thorns that the Savior will wear during His Passion. The holly has little sharp points all around its edges, much like a thorn and one can easily prick a finger by touching the leaf carelessly. The berries represent the drops of Blood He shed. Moreover, the holly is held by tradition to be of the same plant as the wood of the Cross was said to come from. During Advent and Christmas Christians acknowledge the need for a Savior and holly reminds them of this: the holly bough is one of St. John the Baptist's symbols; the Saint heralded our Lord's coming as Isaiah did in the Old Testament.
The ivy is so perennially green, that it symbolizes fidelity and immortality or eternal life in Christ. In addition, the ivy clings to its support as it grows, which symbolizes the Catholic's attachment and undying affection for his merciful Savior.
Printed with the permission of Catholic Tradition.