Every Christmas, instead of the usual Nordic fir tree, my parents used to bring our bijou Bay Tree indoors and decorate it. Slightly weird behaviour- and I'm not sure why they did it; but there is no doubt that the tree looked the part, and as we were not aware of what we were missing out on, it became an integral part of our family Christmas. Ignorance is bliss.
I use bay leaves quite a bit in cooking; who doesn't? The Bay Leaf is the aromatic leaf of the Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis). It originated in Asia Minor, and spread to the warm Mediterranean countries, where it became a symbol of honour in the Ancient World. As with many other herbs, it was also considered to have magical properties.
It has a flowery, aromatic scent and is, of course, wonderful to add that je ne sais quois to stocks, soups and stews such as the Marseille bouillabaisse. It's also an essential ingredient in the bouquet garni, which as I am sure you know is a sprig of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf tied together, traditionally with leek leaves, but more often or not these days, a piece of string.
Image via Wikipedia