Q: I’ve always loved the decorations for Christmas time. What is the significance of the holiday wreath and where did the custom come from? …………………………… Nicole
A: Part of the pageantry and beauty of the holiday season is the smell of fresh greens and the bright lights highlighting our homes. While not everyone goes to the extreme of one of my friends – she makes 55 wreaths and balls every year to decorate her home and business- almost everyone does indulge. Whether it’s wrapping your house in little white lights or putting up a few discreet decorations it’s hard not to get into the spirit of it. In spite of the pressure that sometimes comes with holiday planning, just the thought of Christmas usually makes you smile.
Wreaths are often a part of the holiday décor, and whether on the front door, the windows, or on the coffee table, they are beautiful representations of the spirit of the season. The circular wreath with fresh greens dates back to the early centuries in Persia, China and Egypt. Laurel wreaths were used to honor royalty or winners of exceptional feats. Since Emperor Justinian made Christmas an official holiday in the fifth century, traditional customs, including the wreath, became a part of this celebration. The Christian influence is seen in the popularity of the Advent Wreath in which Christians mark the time until the birth of Christ.
In the 15th century the Pilgrims brought their traditions with them, including the wreath for Christmas celebrations. Since its arrival the advent wreath has remained popular but has also been secularized. Wreaths of all kinds are used year around. Today’s Christmas wreaths are filled with colored ribbons and holly berries, twinkling lights and glittering balls, no longer having to conform to the more traditional forms.
Although there are synthetic wreaths, the real great smelling pine wreath is much preferred. Evergreens symbolize eternal life and the circular design the continuity of life, no beginning and no end. The lights represent the light of hope in the darkness. The holly that is sometimes added to the wreath was believed to have magical powers of healing.
Remember to include your children in your holiday ritual and customs. The memories made during this time remain forever. As beautiful as the tree, the holly and mistletoe is, remember to keep them away from animals and small children. Ingesting any of these can cause vomiting and mild GI irritation.