I started with the idea of a partridge in a pear tree but it’s always important to me to explore a fresh approach—one that’s unexpected and incorporates other ideas and symbols. There are many things going on in this little frosty scene than appears at first glance!
Many of you know the English Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The song was published in 1780 but it’s thought to be a much older song of French origin. Some believe each cumulative gift represents aspects of Christianity and more specifically the Catholic faith. See Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp
Regardless of any secret meanings behind the lyrics, I’ve always loved the song and the imagery of a partridge in a pear tree. By the way, this is what a real partridge looks like! I also included four calling birds—the wee purple songbirds represent “joy.”
There are other meaningful symbols from pre-Christian celebrations at the Winter Solstice incorporated here. Many of these traditions were adopted by Christians in their celebrations of Christmas. http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-general/why-christmas-held-25th-december-001161
Deer and rabbits are shy animals. They’re widely hunted and need to hide to avoid becoming prey. In my artwork, they represent “peace.” It’s a quite, snowy day in an orchard, a pear has fallen from the tree and the birds are singing. A lovely stag with a jeweled collar sniffs the fallen fruit while a large, white hare admires the scene.
The hare wears a collar of holly sprigs. Along with the holly, I drew ivy growing on the tree, fir trees in the background, and small white berries to represent mistletoe. All of these plants had special meanings in ancient times, especially to the Druids of Celtic tribes. During the dark and barren days of winter, holly was prized for its green leaves and bright berries, signifying the green of growth and fertility and the red (or blood) of the renewal of springtime. The Romans used it in their winter celebrations known as the Saturnalia. http://www.druidry.org/library/trees/tree-lore-holly
Ivy has the ability to bind all things together. It can wander freely, linking tree to tree and providing shelter. The image of fir trees, prevalent this time of year, has many meanings. In some countries, it was believed that evergreens kept evil out of the home—evil spirits and illnesses. For this reason, evergreen boughs were often cut down and hung over doorways and inside the home. The green branches represented everlasting life.
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant associated with healing. http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/history/mistletoe.htm It was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans. The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. From the earliest times mistletoe was one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac.
Our Give A Fig™ holiday card for 2016 features a richly meaningful scene with birds and animals in the snow and a central pear tree. During this festive time of year, we wish everyone “Peace & Joy.” Please enjoy your time with family and friends, spend time outdoors in the beauty and tranquility of nature, and don’t forget to put out food for the birds and wildlife, and hug your beloved pet friends.