If you think the gift-giving season is over, think again. 

The new year is another occasion to honor friends, family and neighbors with good will and, yes, presents. While I am no fan of holiday consumer culture, this is one tradition that I can get behind: the practice of giving gifts from nature and household bounty. 

The custom of offering plants as New Year’s gifts is rooted in history. The Celtic Druids favored mistletoe, which was believed to portend happiness, protect from bad luck and be a symbol of immortality. 

Romans honored and made offerings to Janus — god of beginnings — and namesake of our first month. These gifts were called strenae, named for Strenia, the goddess of new year, purification and wellbeing, and were originally branches from sacred trees or gilded nuts. Some leaders took advantage of this tradition and evolved it from gifts to gods to forced payments to the powerful kings, emperors and rulers, though that practice was eventually outlawed. 

Mistletoe was not the only evergreen in the offing. Juniper, boxwood and bay were popular, as was holly. Cultural preference has also evolved this practice and as people migrated, they brought their favorites with them, making current plant gifting much less place-based. 

Very popular New Year’s plants that hail from faraway lands include jade and lucky bamboo. Jade’s rounded leaves suggest coins and favor good fortune. This species is a great choice for someone starting a business or making financial investments.  

Lucky bamboo, another well-wishing option, is not bamboo at all, and is in the same scientific family — asparagaceae — as vanilla and asparagus. A lucky bamboo gift can be even more directed if you consider the number of spears that you send.  

A single stalk symbolized simplicity and a meaningful life; two offers luck in love and marriage; three is simple happiness. For academic achievement and creativity, give five stalks. For good health, seven is the suggestion. Wealth wishes need eight and 10 signifies completion and perfection.  

If you aren’t sure what the recipient desires, try 21, which is an all-purpose blessing. Not sure what happens when you give four, six, or the other missing numbered stalks, but I wouldn’t want to tempt fate or the gifting gods and goddesses. 

Another potent plant to consider gifting is the orchid, which soothes the soul, promotes relaxation and even supports fertility. Mini roses, of course, bring love and passion. Bonsai, succulents, peace lily and pachira (money tree) are also recommended for a good year. 

Floral gifts are secular, communal and nature-based, checking all of my boxes. And as plants, they are providing their own mutual gift of oxygen. 

So don’t be concerned about Greeks (or neighbors, friends and family) bearing gifts for the New Year. Consider it an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, offer an olive branch, or just stop and smell the roses. It is one tradition that I hope will continue to take root.

Suzan Bellincampi is Islands director for Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown and the Nantucket Wildlife Sanctuaries. She is also the author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature and The Nature of Martha’s Vineyard.