holly and ivy

Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe

Winter is a feast of festivals celebrating light and rebirth following the darkest days and nights. Today’s word square is a celebration of festivals and some symbols associated with them.

The emphasis on light and lighting is the main reason I love the Christmas period, and I tend to decorate early in the month so I can enjoy our Christmas tree for as long as possible, but once we’re moving back towards the light again I’m happy to take it all down and pack it away for another year.

The challenge is to use one word from each column and weave them into a story, a poem, a paragraph or even a first sentence. Alternatively, you can join the word square experts who attempt to use every single word in their piece. Kudos to Lesley Mason and Iain McGrath who regularly manage this linguistic feat.

Please feel free to leave your effort below or link to it if it’s on your own website. Alternatively, if you are time-strapped share the title you might use, a first or last paragraph, or even a stanza from a poem, or some lyrics.

My effort is below (I’m not an expert!)

Holly and Ivy turned together as they heard a familiar voice call out ‘Yoo hoo’.
Mistletoe was treading lightly across the grass towards their side of the Yule bonfire dressed in a shimmering silver confection she was supposed to keep for best.
They shared a look, you know the one that says something stronger than ‘oh dear’ and turned back to the fire hoping she hadn’t seen them notice her.
It didn’t matter, she was by their sides in seconds. ‘Hello you two, for a minute there I thought you hadn’t seen me’.
The twins shared another glance, plastered false smiles on their faces and nodded.
Holly was the first to speak. ‘I thought mum said you weren’t allowed to come to the Yule bonfire?’
Mistletoe pouted. ‘I’m not missing this, it’s the one bit of excitement we get in the middle of Winter and besides, mum’s gone to bed early so what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her’.
Ivy wasn’t so sure mum wouldn’t find out but didn’t say anything, after all it might be better to let Mistletoe find out for herself just what their mother did and didn’t know when she next looked into the golden glow of the Yule candles.

Now it’s your turn. Why not use the comment area below to share your own festive offering?

December Word Square
Ivy, Holly, Lotus, Chrysanths, Candles, Fairy Lights, Lantern, Star, Red, Green, Gold, Silver, Diwali, Loi Krathong, Hannukah, Yule




  1. Lovely Linda… and oh yes, I know that look! 🤭
    This was a challenging square…it needed a lot of space to work them all in, but come with me into one of those ill-furnished seminar rooms that sap the life out of you before you’ve even begun…


    “Are we ready for this?” Lotus Star looked around the room. Her crew didn’t lounge; they wilted, with all the enthusiasm of cut chrysanths left in a dry vase for a fortnight. At least they didn’t smell as bad. She took a deep breath. Actually, the room smelled of happiness and hope. She could do this!

    Her first year in charge, she’d read all the manuals, knew the dates. For this year at least. In her last 1-to-1 with the Boss, she’d put in yet another plea for “alignment”. Somehow he – she? It? they (pl)? – didn’t seem to think that efficiency was any part of the point.

    “Just enjoy it,” she’d been told.

    Easy for them to say. Channel positive attitude. Walk the talk and they will follow.

    “Stuff that in a chicken,” she’d thought uncharitably. She loved this time of year, and if the Fairy Lights in front of her didn’t, they wouldn’t be here. Volunteers only this year. That had been the first change she’d made. No conscripts. If you don’t want to party, don’t come. If you don’t want to pray, don’t come. No excuses needed.

    Of course the volunteers hadn’t realised that they were NOT just signing up for their own shift. Everyone had to muck in for the whole programme. She wasn’t totally green at this management

    The team name hadn’t gone down well with the more macho members, or the more devout ones for that matter. Too late now. She’d rethink it next year.

    “ARE we ready for this?” Lotus filled her second call to arms with all her silver charm, twinkled even.
    It was against the rules to twinkle in meetings, but needs must. There was a lot to do between the middle of October and the depths of winter. Billions of people needed reassuring that it was ok to pray AND to be silly; it was ok to feast when the food supplies were probably at their lowest; it was ok to notice the days starting to get light again, even though the harshest of the winter was yet to come.

    Only a few knew that it wasn’t just ok, it was necessary. They would live through the worst of winter on the happy memories of the darkest days. The lights. The holly berries.

    It didn’t matter WHAT they thought they were celebrating so long as the candles were lit and at least one lantern was set afloat on the waters.

    Lloyd stood up. She must stop calling him that. Note to self: learn everyone’s name. His remit, Loi Krathong, wasn’t top of the agenda, but she could rely on him. Worth his weight in gold that one. She hoped no-one noticed the red-hot flush creeping up her neck as she watched him work his own miracle of motivation.

    Only half-listening to words about water, she caught a glimpse of Dinah’s hand stop trembling, and wondered again if she dared emulate that creeping ivy tattoo that circled the slim wrist and crept down over the back of her hand.

    Seeing Dinah’s heap of notes and spreadsheets, she felt a wave of empathy. Always first up, always so many different gods to placate, Diwali wasn’t a brief she’d willingly take on. Freely admitted she’d lost the plot half way through and just accepted that it was basically the same as it was for everyone else: light over darkness, good over not-good. Lotus refused to use the E-word.

    The girl stepped up with a grateful smile to her team-mate. She knew her stuff, and shimmered joy and piety all the way through. She was prepared, she’d divvied up the tasks with diplomacy. The season would debut in fireworks and light. Let joy commence.

    Louts always felt that Hannah (and that was her real name) had the easiest role. Hanukkah being primarily a home-based festival, her duties were subtle and mostly back-office. To be fair to her though, she showed up for everyone else, laughed a lot. Fed everyone. She had that girlish way that belied her years and wisdom. She waited in the background until she spotted what needed doing, then did it.

    The meeting was overrunning. They always did. Lotus risked a glance at Julie, who winked. “All sorted,” she said, without even standing up. “Trees, food, glittery stuff. The snow-delivery is as wayward as ever, but we’re good to go.”

    As they left the room, Lotus felt her friend link arms with her. “And the chocolate Yule log is sugar-frosted and waiting in my office. The wine is mulling. Now we trust that it all just happens.”

    Enjoy it.

    1. Oh, what a wonderful feast for the senses and the imagination Lesley. I can just imagine all the ‘eternal helpers’ encouraging us to see the good around us at all times and right now, that’s a Very Important Process as there is too much so-called ‘news’ about doom and gloom. Fantastic.

  2. Hi Lesley – I think I’ve been in that seminar room…

    This week’s square is certainly a challenge – but you managed to get everything in 👍👏

    1. Did we work for the same company Iain as I recognise the room too – you know the enthusiastic one, the shy one, the lazy one … they’re all there 🙂

      1. Oh, I’ve been in many of those rooms. Sometimes in deep sympathy for the trainer who was getting no engagement, quite often being that trainer. I do not miss work at all!

        1. Yes – been there. I found the worst part was being given the graveyard presentation slot just after lunch, because everyone was nodding off. That was my excuse anyway….

  3. Holly and Ivy Get Prickly

    I was astonished (and very sad) to hear that Holly and Ivy had fallen out so spectacularly – they were real besties back in the day.

    Their friendship began at junior school, when Ivy asked Holly for help in spelling ’chrysanthemums’. Holly didn’t have a clue either, so they settled on ‘chrysanths.’When they left school, they became neighbours, and together ran a successful business making Christmas candles and lanterns. Each year they sold loads of them from a stall in their local market. They adored anything to do with light.

    The saddest thing about their story is that their estrangement began over something really minor. When the two friends heard the carol ‘The Holly and the Ivy’, Ivy was miffed as the lyrics of the song said that ‘of all the trees that are in the wood, the Holly bears the crown’.

    Ivy said Holly changed after hearing that, giving herself airs and graces like she was a star and becoming a bit ‘la di da’. The pair had a row, during which an indignant Holly told Ivy she was ‘the green-eyed monster made flesh’ and accused her of being pretentious when Ivy took to writing ‘Have a cool Yule’ in her Christmas cards instead of ‘Happy Christmas’.

    The rift between the two grew ever wider. Watching them meet at social occasions was to witness a masterclass in passive aggressive froideur. It wasn’t long before the two of them only had to see each other for a red mist to descend. Things got incredibly petty – they competed over everything.

    For instance, when Holly bought a new car – a beautiful silver Lotus Emira – Ivy bought the same model a month later. In gold.

    A year later, Ivy had a daughter, whom she christened Hanukkah. Not to be outdone, nine months later Holly had a son and named him ‘Diwali.’

    When Ivy put expensive fairy lights on her house to celebrate Loi Krathong, Holly complained to the council that the excessive light stopped her from sleeping. Ivy had to take them down.

    It’s such a pity that two people who loved light ended by only generating heat.

    1. What a cracking read Iain. I loved it, very amusing and really made me chuckle especially the last line which is a lovely bit of commentary on heat and light.

    2. Lovely read as always Iain. I especially liked how you worked in silver, lotus and gold. Knowing nothing about cars (don’t drive) I didn’t even make the motor connection when I started playing with the square. Given some recent events in my life, it’s also a sound reminder to not let stuff that doesn’t matter get in the way of stuff that does. Thank you

      1. Thanks Lesley. We probably have exactly the same depth of knowledge re cars. I did know that Lotus was a make of car, but I wouldn’t know one if it ran me over, so I cheated and Googled the different types. I know what you mean about sweating the small stuff though. Many years ago I had ginger hair and thought it was the worst thing in the world if someone mentioned it. Have a great Christmas. 👍🙂

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