There is so much history and symbolism to the immensely popular winter holiday/Christmas wreath I’ve decided to do a tribute to it. For the next 28 days, I will post a photo of a holiday wreath I’ve spotted and found particularly inspiring. Maybe from a symbolic, creative, classic or simply pretty, point of view.
These days holiday wreaths are ubiquitous, hung on front doors as a sign of welcome, used in religious traditions such as the Advent wreath, strung on city lampposts for adornment and somehow attached to Jeep Cherokees (I swear the most popular vehicle to sport one) to show “mobile” holiday spirit. And these are just a few uses that come to mind…
So how did the wreath gain such popularity? Is it just because of Christmas and other winter holidays in December? Of course, not! Here’s a quick bit of history on the emblematic wreath.
The wreath has been an enduring sign with various meanings in many different cultures. In Pre-Christian or Pagan times much importance was placed on the Winter solstice. It was viewed as a time of death and re-birth and the passing of the shortest day of the year called for much celebration. Evergreen wreaths were a part of these celebrations as a sign of ever-increasing light and the promise of Spring.
Likewise, the wreath has a prominent place in the stories of ancient times. In the Persian Empire, wreaths were symbolic of importance and success and worn as headbands. Maybe more familiar…ancient Greeks placed wreaths on the heads of victorious athletes in their Olympic Games. And in Roman times, wreaths were worn similarly to crowns and hung on doorways as a sign of victory.
In modern times, the Christmas wreath has come to convey a number of meanings, the primary one being the circle or ring shape, that has no beginning and no end, is viewed as symbolizing eternity or eternal rebirth. This seems that it could be related to the Pre-Christian cultures’ interpretation of the evergreen wreath representing the end of darkness and over time and history has evolved into a representation of life everlasting.
Most definitely, wreaths have many connotations and uses, but isn’t it interesting to realize this symbol that we casually think of as an acknowledgment of holiday cheer has been sanctioned for eons of time by people gathering in celebration of life and the days to come? Wreaths on front doors, now make me think a bit more about the people behind the doors and the hopeful celebration they will participate in and the excitement they will share together this season.
How about you? Do you hang a wreath or maybe a few in December? Does the wreath have a special meaning in your culture, family or group of friends? Have you ever made a wreath? If so, what was it made from?