For many centuries, long before any artificially created things were used as Christmas decorations, various forms of green growing things were used. In
the Regency era, whilst some decorations made form paper and other items were beginning to be used, by far the greatest amount of decoration was still greenery.
In the UK, before Christmas Trees became popular (in the 1830s – they were
first introduced from Germany, in about 1800, by the royal family) and dating
back to the middle ages, a popular form of Christmas / mid-winter decoration
was the Kissing Bough or Bunch. These were made of five wooden hoops that made the shape of a ball (four hoops vertical to form the ball and then the fifth horizontal to go around the middle). The hoops were covered with Holly, Ivy, Rosemary, Bay, Fir or other evergreen plants. Inside the hoops were hung red apples (often hung from red ribbons) and a candle was either put inside the ball at the bottom or multiple candles were tied around the horizontal hoop. The bough was finished by hanging a large bunch of mistletoe from the bottom of the ball. (For a simpler bough you could also just have a horizontal hoop decorated and hung with apples and the mistletoe.)
Most Christmas greenery, whilst often originally used in non Christian or pre-Christian cultures, when adopted by Christian countries was imbued with a Christian meaning. many of these meanings related to the ability of the evergreen plants to survive through the harshness of winter.
Holly – The prickly leaves represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. The berries are the drops of blood that were shed by Jesus because of the thorns. In Scandinavia it is known as the Christ Thorn. In pagan times, Holly was thought to be a male plant and Ivy a female plant. An old tradition from the Midlands of England says that whatever one was brought into the house first over winter, tells you whether the man or woman of the house would rule that year! But it was unlucky to bring either into a house before Christmas Eve.
Ivy – Ivy has to cling to something to support itself as it grows. This reminds us that we need to cling to God for support in our lives. In Germany, it is traditional that Ivy is only used outside and a piece tied to the outside of a Church was supposed to protect it from lightning!
Laurel, Fir and Yew, Rosemary and many other plants were all also allocated meanings in the context of the Christian faith and Christmas. So, in Regency times, decorating your house with Christmas greenery was also a statement of your faith in God, and a sign of your family’s adherence to the church.