Sunday, 21 November 2010
Whilst delving into the history of the Christmas tree I was reminded of the connection that the legendary Glastonbury Thorn has with the festive season.
For those of you not in the know, the Glastonbury Thorn is a hawthorn, of a type which originates in the Middle East, that grows in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, England. Legend has it that it grew from where Joseph of Arimathea (supposedly Jesus's uncle) laid his staff, flowering every Christmas Day.
A cutting from the Glastonbury Thorn was sent to the monarch each Christmas by the Vicar and Mayor of Glastonbury. However, the tree was pronounced dead in June 1991, and cut down the following February.
Fortunately, plenty of cuttings were taken from it before its destruction so that a new Thorn could be planted. In fact, the hawthorn growing in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey before 1991 was itself supposedly a cutting from the original plant, planted in secret after the original was destroyed.
Only hawthorn trees that budded or grafted from the original exist. The plants actually blossom twice a year, in May as well as at Christmas. The blossoms of the Christmas shoots are smaller than the ones the plant produces in May and do not produce any haws, the small, oval, berry-like fruit of the hawthorn, which are dark red in colour.
You will discover many more facts about Christmas and Christmas trees in What is Myrrh Anyway? and Christmas Miscellany - both of which are available to buy by clicking the relevant links in the left-hand sidebar.