Boxwood, holly … Christmas is the occasion of a return on these twin brothers to the rich symbolic and whose cutlery nontron has made the best use for the sleeves of his knives made in Périgord green.
They are almost interchangeable and they are both related to the Christian tradition: the holly is at the beginning of the story, the boxwood at the end. They decorate our gardens of amenities since at least the seventeenth century. Sculptors, cutlery makers and cutlers use them.
Boxwood belongs to the Buxacea fault that includes about 90 species from all continents. They are evergreen trees or shrubs (persistent opposite leaves) that grow slowly. They support the shade but they prefer the arid hillsides. In the wild, they are mainly found in the Balearic Islands, (the learned name of the species is Buxus Balearic), in Sardinia or Andalusia. There are also other species including boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
The name comes from the Latin word “buxus”, it will give “woodte” in old French, twelfth century then box. He is also the ancestor of the English “box”.
Boxwood, the kingwood
Boxwood is related to the celebration of twigs (also called palm ceremony because of the shape of its leaves) which takes place on the Sunday before Easter Sunday. Entering Jerusalem, Jesus is greeted by a crowd waving twigs of boxwood. The Christian tradition is that the boxwood is burned the day after Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday and that the latter are affixed on the forehead of the faithful, a symbol of immortality.
Gloss after polishing, boxwood is one of the favorite materials of the tabletiers especially for the manufacture of cigar boxes or the making of chess pieces. It is the preferred wood of the Nontronnaise cutlery, the identity essence illuminating its blond color, the hand of the collector.
Holly, immortal sleeves
Like its alter ego, holly is an ornamental shrub. This is one of the many species of the genus Ilex (gathering evergreen, evergreen shrubs and producing berries). Of this family, holly is the only plant that grows spontaneously in Europe.
These covered branches are sought after at Christmas time. Holly is considered one of the new year’s plants with boxwood, of course, but also laurel, yew, ivy, juniper and gorse.
If the boxwood is Latin, the holly is rather Germanic, deriving from the old high German hulis. The Occitan world knows it also under the name of grefuèlh directly derived from the Latin acrifolius, at the origin of various names Aigrefeuille in Haute-Garonne, Grandfuel in Aveyron or Griffeuille in Arles.
A biblical tree, Holly is associated with the birth of the Baby Jesus. At the time of the massacre of the innocents, destined to eliminate the one whom the prophetic texts announce as the king of the Jews, Mary, Joseph and the child fled to Egypt. According to legend, when they approach a troop of soldiers, they hide in a holly bush, which then spreads its branches to hide the Holy Family. Saved, Mary blesses the bush of holly wishing that it remains always green, conferring on the tree, also a value of immortality.
If you know it end and garnished with red berries (quite toxic), we forget that the holly can reach up to 25 meters in height. Hard, heavy, its wood is easy to polish, perfect for making Nontron knives. Used formerly in cabinetmaking, it was used to make chess sets, veneers or even drawing instruments …
On the other hand, to all those who hope for marriage, it is useless to kiss one another under a branch of holly or a branch of boxwood, it is under the mistletoe that one must draw the chosen one from his heart. Parasitic plant, it is considered a sacred plant by the Gauls who lend it various virtues including that of promoting fertility, it would be the only one to be able to catch the disease … love.