Wreaths are a very popular decoration and begining in early December, we see them popping up everywhere. Traditionally, wreaths are placed on the front door as a sign of welcome. We see them strung on utility poles in nearly every city and town. It's common to place wreaths on the graves of veterans and loved ones who are no longer with us. Wreaths have a long history of symbolism spanning many cultures. Today, we'll look at a few of them and learn how they translate into our modern cultural setting.
In the days of the pagans (pre-Christian), the wreath was used as part of the Winter Soltice celebration. This was a time of death (winter and the shortest day of the year) and the anticipation of rebirth in the spring. In many celebrations, evergreens were collected and fashioned into wreaths, as a sign of the approaching spring light. In Sweden they were used for a similar purpose, but candles were added that symbolized the power of the sun.
Wreaths have a place in ancient history, too. In the Persian Empire, wreaths were a symbol of importance and success. Ancient Greeks placed wreaths of laurel on the heads of their victorious athletes at the Olympic Games. Wreaths were worn by Roman Leaders, like Julius Caesar. They were a precurser to the royal crown we think of today. Wreaths were hung on doors as a symbol of victory.
Today's Christmas wreath has it's own set of modern meanings. Throughout the ages, circles have come to represent eternity...no beginning and no end. Th pre-Christian interpretation of the power of evergreens to battle the forces of winter, has evolved into a modern-day representation of eternal life. "The circle will be unbroken..."
The various materials used today to make wreaths also have symbolic meanings. Holly represents immortality and cedar stands for strengh...unless you're highly allergic as I am. Then it means only pure nasal misery. But, for most of us, the Christmas wreath has evolved into a symbol of welcome and holiday cheer for this season that represents generosity, giving, and a gathering of loved ones; the 3 G's, if you will.
Seeing holiday wreaths fills me with a sense of joy. For me, there's just something omfoting and happy about a Christmas wreath. As a young froglet, I'd help my mom make wreaths from water lily blossoms, Then we'd decorate them with all our favorite candied bugs and insects. Each day, when I got home from school, I was allowed to eat one or two. When the folks weren't looking, though, I'd always sneak a few more of those yummy bugs. By the time Christmas rolled around, our wreath was virtually unadorned. Now, it's my little brother Quigley's turn to help make the family wreath. And, I must admit, he has more restraint than I did, when it comes to eating the decorations. But then, he's not the sweet-eater that his big brother is! Wreath are easy to make and lots of fun, with an infinite variety of edible, and non-edible, decorations. Perhaps you might like to try your hand at wreath-making this holiday season. Your limited only by your imagination.
I hope you enjoyed at look at the history and meaning of the holiday wreath. I invite you all to join me back here on Monday.
Have a great weekend!