Wednesday, 2 January 2008

OF OLIVES AND CAROLS


"Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit of as great importance as the olive." – Pliny the Elder

Today is the ninth day of Christmas, so I hope your true love gave to you nine ladies dancing. Here are the twelve day gifts, just to remind you:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Twelve drummers drumming, Eleven pipers piping, Ten lords a-leaping, Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree!

Just in case you were wondering about these unlikely presents, there is some hidden religious symbolism in these lyrics:
True Love refers to God. The Turtle Doves represent the Old and New Testaments. The three French Hens refer to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues. Four Calling Birds are the Four Gospels (and/or the Four Evangelists). The Five Golden Rings represent the first Five Books of the Old Testament (the "Pentateuch"), which give the history of man's fall from grace. The six Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
while the seven Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments. The
eight Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes. The nine Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit, and the Lords A-leaping refers to the Ten Commandments. The eleven Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles, while the twelve Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed.

The olive tree, Olea europaea, is the birthday plant for this day. An olive branch has long been the universal symbol of peace. In China, for example, a traditional way of making up after a quarrel is to send the aggrieved person an olive wrapped in a piece of red paper as a sign that peace has been restored. In Greece, an olive branch was a traditional gift for the New Year, a token of peace and goodwill. The dove that returned to Noah’s Ark after the deluge, carried in its beak a sprig of olive, which Noah interpreted as a herald of peace, safety and salvation.

The ancient Greeks recounted the following legend regarding the origin of the olive tree: When Athens was first populated, the citizens were looking for a god to become its patron and to give his name to the City. Two gods vied for the naming rights, god of the sea, Poseidon who wanted the City called Poseidonia, and goddess of wisdom, Athená, who wanted the City named after her. In an offer of goodwill, Poseidon, the god of the sea, struck his trident on the rock of the Acropolis and a fountain of salt water gushed out. Athená reciprocated by striking her spear on the rocky soil, out of which sprung the olive tree bearing olives. The name of the City has since then been Athens, the city of Athená. On the Acropolis there is an ancient olive tree, reputedly the same one that Athená gave to her city...

To dream of a fruiting olive tree is a particularly good omen as it signifies the successful completion of a project with delightful results. To dream of olive oil is equally propitious as it implies great wealth and prosperity. Eating olives in a dream, on the other hand, signifies frugality and days of scarcity ahead.

olive |ˈäliv| noun
1 a small oval fruit with a hard pit and bitter flesh, green when unripe and brownish black when ripe, used as food and as a source of oil.

2 (also olive tree) the widely cultivated evergreen tree that yields this fruit, native to warm regions of the Old World. • Olea europaea, family Oleaceae (the olive family). This family also includes the ash, lilac, jasmine, and privet.

• used in names of other trees that are related to the olive, resemble it, or bear similar fruit, e.g., Russian olive.

3 (also olive green) a grayish-green color like that of an unripe olive.

4 a metal ring or fitting that is tightened under a threaded nut to form a seal, as in a compression joint.

5 (also olive shell) a marine mollusk with a smooth, roughly cylindrical shell that is typically brightly colored. • Genus Oliva, family Olividae, class Gastropoda.
adjective
grayish-green, like an unripe olive : a small figure in olive fatigues.
• (of the complexion) yellowish brown; sallow.
ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from Latin oliva, from Greek elaia, from elaion ‘oil.’

Jacqui BB is hosting Word Thursday.

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