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Rosemary: Our Christmas tradition, a short story, and a brief poem by Marianne Moore

Each Christmas we buy rosemary, a small tree, in a little plastic pot, with a red or gold bow. It's a tradition Jon and I began a while back and I don't recall exactly why, which is ironic since rosemary is for remembrance. Every year we buy it and every year I try to keep it alive and plant it. Every year I fail. Except last year. Last year I managed to keep the rosemary alive. It thrived and grew, fragrant and full in its pot. I kept saying I needed to plant it but wasn't sure where, and felt worried that transferring it would end my happy steak of luck with the herb.

Then we lost Bubba. As a memorial to him, we decided to plant a garden with his grave. Now the rosemary had a spot and a purpose. It has flourished there, too, along with the beautiful hibiscus---golden, of course.

This year, so far, until today I have forgotten to buy rosemary. Another small fetch of irony. Or not. Perhaps I have let go of what I was trying to remember, or perhaps having finally succeeded at preserving a rosemary tree, I feel no need for another.

However, having now recalled its absence, I feel an urge to run find a place that is open today and get another little tree. The house doesn't seem to smell right without the pungent punch of rosemary accenting the fir and holly.

Rosemary is, after all, associated with Christmas, too:
Rosemary was used during the Middle Ages by housewives to spread on the floor at Christmas. As people walked on it, a pleasant aroma arose. Tradition has it that the shrub is fragrant because Mary laid the garments of the Christ Child on its branches. The night he was born, legend has it, the trees suddenly bore fruit and flowers blossomed out of season. Source: Santa's Net

Maybe I simply like the poetry, symbolism and history behind it.

I think Marianne Moore explains it best.


Beauty and Beauty's son and rosemary -
Venus and Love, her son, to speak plainly -
born of the sea supposedly,
at Christmas each, in company,
braids a garland of festivity.
Not always rosemary -

since the flight to Egypt, blooming indifferently.
With lancelike leaf, green but silver underneath,
its flowers - white originally -
turned blue. The herb of memory,
imitating the blue robe of Mary,
is not too legendary

to flower both as symbol and as pungency.
Springing from stones beside the sea,
the height of Christ when he was thirty-three,
it feeds on dew and to the bee
"hath a dumb language;" is in reality
a kind of Christmas tree.

Marianne Moore

The more I read this poem, the more layers I find. It's brilliant---absolutely a brilliant and amazing weaving of legend, myth and the Christmas story and tradition.


And a happy time---whatever this time is for you, holiday of one sort or another, or not---may this be for you.

If it is Christmas for you, a very Merry Christmas to you.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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S said…
Thank you for that. She is one of my very favorite poets.

Merry Christmas to you, Julie, and to your family. I wish you all joy and peace.
Liv said…
rosemary has such trouble being pot bound. :( i used to try and try and try until finally i gave up. wishing you good rosemary growing this season!
Kyla said…
Merry Christmas, Julie.
Karen Jensen said…
Thank you for the lovely poem.

I am lifting my coffee mug in silent tribute to the lovely Bubba.

Happy Christmas, Julie and family.
Anonymous said…
Merry Merry Christmas! Lovely poem...and what a neat tradition,too.
Anonymous said…
Merry Merry Christmas! Lovely poem...and what a neat tradition,too.
Anonymous said…
Merry Merry Christmas! Lovely poem...and what a neat tradition,too.
Merry Christmas, Julie, to you and yours. I'm so happy to have found you :)

niobe said…
In keeping with my carefully cultivated aura of mystery, I'm not going to explain why this post did something complicated and twisty to my heart. But I'm guessing that you already know.

Merry Christmas.
Funny - I just posted something about our dog's death. Thurston was almost 15 years old and like your cat, quite ill before he died (think diapers, hand feeding, pills).

Marianne Moore. Makes me want to sing a round of "The Old Ball Game." She's amazing. Good match.
painted maypole said…
i love that the year managed to keep it alive, you planted it at a grave. remembrance, indeed.

Merry Christmas!
Unknown said…
Merry Christmas Julie! After reading this post I want to go find some Rosemary to sprinkle on my floors. Of course, you might not be able to see it with all the other crud that is lying around on the floor. At least the room would smell nice!

I love hearing about Christmas traditions. I had never heard about rosemary and Christmas before. Thanks for sharing.

(At the risk of making yet another false promise, I hope to be a more regular visitor here in the next few weeks!)
Kat said…
What a beautiful story. Now I want to run out and find a little rosemary.
Merry Christmas!
Christine said…
merry christmas my dear friend. i too, love rosemary. sorry i haven't been around--i've missed you, though.

Running on empty
Kellan said…
Merry Christmas, Julie - to you and your precious family. See you soon. Kellan
Angie McCullagh said…
Rosemary does have the most amazing fragrance...and I really like your blog. I've seen your comments all over the place and finally just clicked on one. Glad to have found you.

Anonymous said…
Merry Christmas to you and yours, Julie! Have a great holiday.
dharmamama said…
Merry Christmas, Julie!

I hope your day is magic.
Mary Alice said…
Merry Christmas from the Frontline Family.

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