Today, Dec. 21 at 1:48 p.m. PST, the universal season of joy begins. Going back to prehistoric times, humans have rejoiced with the return of the sun. At the winter solstice, once again the hours of daylight begin to lengthen.

While it is not possible for the human eye to detect the exact moment of solstice, ancients devised structures such as Stonehenge to assure people that the sun was not permanently receding. Armed with proof, they celebrated the expectation of lengthening days.

The springtime to come with an increased production of food, though, would not be for many weeks. Part of the preparation for the long winter ahead involved the culling of domestic animals to limit the number needing to be fed. The slaughtered animals provided food for a great feast before the austerity of winter scarcity.

In parts of northern Europe, the winter solstice festival was known as Yuletide. When Christianity became the norm, Yuletide was pushed a few days and incorporated into Christmastide.

Throughout the world, in a multitude of cultures, this coming week is marked with celebrations that have roots going back for millennia. Certain plants, used as decorations and as gifts, are associated with these festivities.

The Peace Lily is a plant that is gifted in many parts of the world. It draws its name from its little lily-like white flowers that pop out through green foliage. These little white flowers remind folks of white flags waved universally as a truce petition.

The Peace Lily, also called Spath, is not actually a lily. It is a type of plant that produces flowers on a spadix surrounded by a greenish spathe.

The Snake Plant, officially named Sansevieria, is another indoor plant that is increasingly popular. It is attributed with health benefits. The snake reference comes from the patterns on its long slender leaves that are reminiscent of snakeskin.

The Snake Plant is a treasured gift in many Asian and African cultures. These are placed at the entrance of homes according to the belief that the eight virtues could pass through the leaves.

Aglaonema, also called Chinese Evergreen, have been grown and given throughout Asia. These ornamental plants are credited with bringing luck. Large glossy leaves display variegations of silver, gray, white and shades of green in various species.

The Peace Lily, Snake Plant, and Aglaonema all gained popularity when certain species were published on a NASA Clean Air study list. They are identified as effective in removing household air toxins, although the degree of purification is not determined.

Increasingly, these clean air acclaimed houseplants are promoted on the internet and in stores. Requiring very little care, they make easy to grow gifts. Tropical in origin, such plants thrive indoors in low light and tolerate some neglect.

Note that most indoor plants should be kept away from pets who might chew on the leaves. This is not good for the plant nor the pet.

Beautiful plants for gifting or indoor use can be purchased locally at Hernandez Flowers, 2358 Blossom Street, in Dos Palos. Call (209) 270-1999.

In the Western world, coniferous evergreens are very much a part of the holidays. Hernandez Flowers creates evergreen centerpieces augmented with red carnations and roses ready to pick up for holiday tables.

For last minute shoppers, the stores in downtown Dos Palos have wonderful gifts for everyone. For men and boys find tools and toys at N & S Tractor. Cloud 9 offers gifts for women and babies. The Pioneer Drug gift department has fragrances and specialty gifts for all ages.

Spread seasonal joy by bidding, “Peace on earth and good will toward all!”

Janet Miller

Janet Miller is a freelance writer specializing in family faith. She offers Family Prayers and Activities: Weekly Guides on compact disc for families to explore the Bible together. Email