All about Christmas Wreaths
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There is no supported information about the precise origin of the Christmas wreath; however, there are some historical facts that are somewhat associated with Christmas wreaths along with some legends and some long-lived customs regarding Christmas wreaths.
Many wreaths, before novelty-type influences, were made of holly. In ancient times Celts believed that holly had magical protective powers. In Roman mythology holly was sacred to Saturn, the sun god and pagans worshipped holly. Holly wreaths were also common to winter solstice celebrations.
Needless to say, the use of holly Christmas wreaths for celebration of the birth of Christ were controversial among Christians due to their association with magical power, paganism and multi-theism.
Never the less, decorating the halls with boughs of holly during the Christmas season became a tradition even in Christian homes. Some legends hold that the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head at the time of the crucifixion was actually a wreath of holly with white berries that turned red from Christ’s blood.
Fun Fact: There is more than one species of holly, some bushes and some trees. Some are evergreen and some are not. Holly berries are beautiful but can be toxic to humans if eaten.
In Germany, where the tradition of Christmas trees can be traced to, a Lutheran tradition emerged -- the Advent wreath. The Advent wreath is made of evergreen and is symbolic of eternity in God’s grace. It has three purple candles that represent penance, sorrow and expectation, and one pink candle which stands for hope and joy. The Advent wreath represents the four weeks of Advent and is used with white candles during the Christmas season.
The Advent wreath, minus the candles, is most similar to the wreaths used today for festive holiday decor, so most likely, the modern day tradition of Christmas wreaths originated from the Lutheran influence.
Religiously, the advent wreath has a place in Catholic tradition. This special wreath is created with four candles, each a different colour. One candle is lit each Friday of Advent with a prayer. In this, the wreath represents the coming if the Christmas celebration. Scandinavian wreaths also feature candles. The candles light the winter night's and are a sign of hope for the future light of spring. It was believed the wreath and candles would encourage the god of light to turn the world towards the sun once more.
The tradition of the wreath extends further back than the beginnings of Christian tradition. Pagan rituals of mid-winter often featured a wreath of evergreen with 4 candles. The candles were placed in each of the four directions, representing the elements of earth, wind, water and fire. Rituals were preformed to ensure the continuance of the circle of life.
Much symbolism can be attributed to the Christmas wreath. The shape of a circle has no beginning and no ending. This may represent the eternal nature of a god's love, or the circle of life. Evergreens are used to represent immortality and the victory of life through darkness and challenge. The fact that evergreens live through winter signifies the strength of life.
The decorative value of wreaths is believed to have been derived by ancient tradition. In the way that we use house numbers today, wreaths featuring different floral arrangements were used to identify different families and houses.
Also attributing to the wreath lore is the Roman use of wreaths as signs of victory. It is believed that victors of battles would hang wreaths upon their doors to advertise their status.
Today wreaths are a wonderful decorative touch, both year round and at Christmas time. It is a sign of faith in humanity and life and of victory over life's challenges. Whether you hang a wreath on the door to welcome visitors, or on the wall to complete a room's decor the splash of colour on a cold winter's day is sure to add a feeling of warmth, building excitement for the coming season.
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