Robin Sweetser gives us the background story behind the Christmas Wreath for the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
What Does a Wreath on Your Door Symbolize?
This time of year, Christmas wreaths are hung in every place imaginable—from doors and fences to lampposts and windows—even the front grille of the car! How did a round bit of greenery come to symbolize the holidays?
Wreaths are part of many ancient traditions dating back to the earliest civilizations. The circle is a symbol of immortality; throughout history, wreaths have been associated with life, rejuvenation, and renewal. Originally, wreaths were worn around the head, neck, or waist.
The Greeks awarded laurel wreaths to their triumphant athletes; in the Persian Empire they were worn on the head as a symbol of importance; and ancient Romans wore them like crowns. In Sweden, candles were incorporated in the wreaths to celebrate the return of light after the winter solstice. Nowadays we use them in a window or on a door as a sign of welcome during the holidays.
They can be used flat on a table for decoration or as an advent wreath, which also contains candles, one for each Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Yule Love This Wreath
Every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my local library has a wreath-making workshop. The library supplies the greens and wire and you bring your own wreath form, gloves, clippers, and enthusiasm. All the wreaths that are made that day are beautiful and all are different. Luckily, there are no hard and fast rules for wreath-making. Whatever pleases you is a success!
Every wreath starts with a base of some sort; it can be wire, straw, vine, or wood. Stalks of woody herbs like rosemary, lemon verbena, artemisia, or summer savory can be wrapped into a circle to make a fragrant base. Gather small bunches of evergreens together and wire them to the base. Overlap the bunches to hide the stems. Tuck small bunches of herbs and other interesting greens into the base using more wire to hold them, if necessary. Using greens of different colors and textures will give your wreath its richness. Add cones, dried flowers, berries, and fruit for accents. Don’t forget the bow!
Herbs can add symbolic meaning to your wreath:
- Rosemary for remembrance
- Sage for good health
- Thyme for bravery
- Lavender for purity
- Rue for virtue
- Juniper for life and hope
- Hawthorn berries for protection and joy
Throw in cedar for strength, holly for immortality, and pinecones for long life and prosperity.
Whatever your family traditions are, at its very core, a wreath celebrates the cyclical nature of life.