Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary
Rosemary

 ‘Down with the rosemary and so,

Down with the baies and mistletoe,

Down with the holly, ivie all

Wherewith ye deck the Christmas Hall.’

—Herrick

 

 

Rosemary has a very old reputation for improving memory, and has been used as a symbol for remembrance (during weddings, war commemorations and funerals) in Europe, probably as a result of this reputation. Many a bride added rosemary to their wedding bouquets.

There are legends that tie Rosemary to the Christmas season. One is that Rosemary was silent underfoot as the Holy Family traveled. The soft leaves muffled the crackling twigs beneath thus preventing detection and ensuring a safe journey to Bethlehem.

Another legend recounts that the white rosemary flower was turned to the color of Mary’s blue cloak when she laid it gently upon the blooming bush as the family was fleeing from Herod’s dreaded soldiers.

Until the Twentieth Century, Rosemary was a much sought-after Christmas evergreen. A gilded Rosemary sprig, for example, was considered to be a treasured gift. The reason for its later loss in popularity is unknown, but it is slowly starting to regain its former favor with the use of Rosemary in holiday wreaths and Rosemary topiaries used as small Christmas trees. According to Medieval legend Rosemary would decorate the alter at Christmas time; it was even used as a strewing herb in churches for the season.

It is said that if a rosemary bush grows vigorously in the garden, the woman is the head of the household.

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