1997 32¢ Christmas Holly
Issue Date: October 30, 1997
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Banknote Corporation of America
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: Serpentine die cut 11.2 x 11.6
American holly, Ilex opaca, is actually a hardy ever-green tree which can grow as tall as 60 feet and can live up to 200 years. Its spiked green leaves and red berries shine through the winter months like a promise of life, and its boughs have been used as seasonal decorations since ancient times.
Evergreen branches made their way into most homes in mid-December during the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia. This was when early Christians adopted the custom – to avoid recognition and persecution. Since then, the use of holly at Christmastime has had religious significance in many legends.
It has been said that Christ’s crown of thorns was made of holly. Other stories say that the early French and English hung holly over each door to show that Christ was present in their homes.
According to one old wives’ tale, whoever brings holly into the house at Christmas, either husband or wife, will rule the house during the coming year. There are also legends about holly being used to guard against evil spirits and bad winter weather.
Along with all of its history and symbolism, perhaps the bright, festive appearance of American holly is what keeps it a familiar part of Christmas tradition.