was a favorite charm in Greece and used to banish the mysterious beings called Karkanzari, who made peasant life almost unbearable. These mischievous creatures wandered about through the twelve days of Christmas, supposedly they were the souls who had found no rest in heaven and had returned to disturb the living. To banish such trouble, the priest came to each house with a cross adorned with sprigs of basil. He dipped this in holy water, and sprinkled the blessed each room and the environs of the house. Then the Karkanzari disappeared. Bedstraw
was one of theplants of Palestine that was cut with hay and fed to animals. Thus it was with the hay in the stable where the Christ Child was born. Bedstraw once blossomed white and scentless, but on the holy night the flowers turned to purest gold and a heavenly frangrance filled every minute blossom. Thus bedstraw became one of the most revered of plants, too sacred for the touch of devils, after Christmas festivities, it was scattered over the fields to bless and increase the crops. It was also spread in stalls to protect animals from disease, and on Christmas Eve heaped on the floor for the family to sleep upon. Pennyroyal
in the past was woven into wreaths to be worn on the head as protection against giddiness. Culpeper wrote, Drink it with wine, it is good for venomous bites, and applied to the nostrils with vinegar revives those who faint and swoon. Rosemary
often blossoming at Christmas, a mist of tiny flowers like dewdrops on the rich green branches, is called dew-of-the-sea, sometimes Romero, or the Pilgrim's flower. In Spain and Italy, it was considered a charm against witches, in England and on the Continent, after being dipped in scented water, it was used in the bride's wreath, and also presented to the wedding guests as a symbol of love and loyalty. Sometimes bunches were richly gilded and tied with colored ribbons. Thyme
also grew abundantly in Palestine on rocky gravelly soil and was cut with other grasses for the manger. Its antiseptic fregrance kept away vermin and gave the bed a sweet clean smell. A symbol of bravery, thyme is associated with the Holy Child, who would endure much suffering, with Mary, the Lady of Sorrows, with Joseph, who needed great courage and patience. The Christmas Rose
that dares to bloom in the snow earned the name, Christe Herbe. On the night when the Wise Men, following the star, journeyed toward Bethlehem, a little girl came after them. Struggling to keep up with the excited men, she arrived breathless at the manger. There she saw the kneeling kings presenting their rich gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Ashamed to be without an offering, she withdrew to the flocks on the hillside, and standing disconsolately among them, prayed for a gift that she might present.
Suddenly, with a rush of wings, a glowing angel stood before her, He waved a wand of lilies over the ground and at once hundreds of white waxen blossoms appeared. The little girl gathered all she could carry and hurried back to the stable with her precious load. When she reached the manger, the Christ Child turned from the gifts of gold and reached out tiny hands to grasp the flowers. Mary placed them in the manger, saying to the little girl, My child, you are blessed, for this is a gift from the heart greater than riches, sweeter than rare perfume, a symbol of Love.