Greeting cards are not the only objects adorned with holly and ivy. Ivy’s sinuous lines appealed to ceramic artists since ancient Greek and Roman times.
And it has remained a popular motif through the centuries. In 1815, ivy made its way to a porcelain dinner service known as Napoleon Ivy. A green and brown leaf pattern wreathes richly round each dish and plate. The original service was ordered by the British government for the ex-emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, who was in exile on the island of St Helena. It would have reminded him of his own Sevres porcelain service with its rich gold ivy wreaths around each rim.
In England, in the mid 1800s, special Christmas tableware brought holly and ivy to the feast. Cheese dishes, cream jugs, mince pie trays, candlesticks and turkey platters were wreathed with holly and ivy patterns. Commemorative plates from the British Midland pottery firms continue this tradition today. The Stoke-on-Trent firm, Wedgwood, launched a series of commemorative Christmas plates in 1969: pale blue jasper ware plates, have a central relief of a famous British scene or building, with a formal border of white holly leaves.
In the 19th century many potteries across Europe turned to the theme of holly and ivy. One from France – a Limoges china tea set, delicately patterned with pink ribbon and holly – was made in the 1890s for the London department store, William Whitely’s. Also from France was a robust dinner service with stenciled holly leaves encircling the edges, once well used in Normandy farmhouse kitchens.
On a less grand scale, creating a holly-and-ivy collection of china, textiles, jewelry and Christmas ephemera is within most people’s means, and sit can form a treasure-trove table display at Christmas.
Collecting can provide year-round pleasure, and since most people are blind to holly and ivy outside the Christmas season, there is a good chance of finding a bargain to enjoy or to give.