As I have mentioned in previous posts, holly and ivy, being winter evergreens, were often used to decorate homes for winter festivals. They signify the promise of new life and so were adapted from Pagan rituals to fit nicely in with the Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus.
The Holly and the Ivy is also the name of a Christmas carol. This carol seems to have existed in some form since the 17th Century and has been rewritten over the centuries. The first verse goes like this:
The Holly and the Ivy
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The Holly bears the crown
Apparently, no doubt whilst strumming idly on his lute, King Henry VIII came up with his own ditty about holly and ivy. Given his somewhat turbulent lovelife the lyrics sound more hollow than holly: