History of the Christmas Wreath
History of the Christmas Wreath: Where Do Christmas Wreaths Come From?
Christmas wreaths are one of the most beloved Christmas decorations adorning front doors of homes and mantles today. But where did the idea for the Christmas wreath originate? What is the history of the Christmas wreath and why do we find them to be such an integral part of our Christmas decorating on an annual basis?
If we look back to the ancient Celts of Europe, Christmas was celebrated in those times as something known as the Winter Solstice. It is here that we can begin to trace the history of the Christmas wreath. Christmas to the Celts had other names such as Yule and the like; however, the main reasons for celebration was to celebrate the return of the sun or the birth of the god. One of the many decorations that the ancient Celts used in their Winter Solstice traditions and decorations were boughs of holly. Think of the popular Christmas carol "deck the halls with boughs of holly..." and you'll get the picture. Many Christmas wreaths today are made out of holly or made to imitate holly with its bright green, spiky leaves and flamboyantly red berries.
But what about the circular structure of the Christmas wreath? Where did that idea come from? An idea is that the Christmas wreath's circular structure originates from the wreaths or "coronas" that the ancient Romans wore on their heads during festivals and to honor warriors after going into arduous battles. Golden wreaths (or coronas) were worn only by royalty and to commemorate the Roman gods.
The idea of the Christmas wreath being a circle is a powerful symbol that represents many different things, depending on the seasonal holiday you celebrate. If you indeed celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Christ, then the Christmas wreath is said to represent the preparation of the coming of Christ. If you are a Pagan and celebrate Yule, then the Christmas wreath might represent the idea of eternity or divinity. The Christmas wreaths were said to have been constructed of evergreen branches, symbolizing the life of the earth that never truly dies (despite the blistery winter winds and chills).
Throughout the centuries and in many different cultures all over the world the wreath has been used as a costume piece (as a headdress) and also to decorate homes and buildings for the winter season and festivities. Since America and Europe have been Christianized, the wreath has become a symbol widely associated with the Christmas season. Today, the Christmas wreath has a history that can't be particularly determined but can be attributed to a melting pot of religious and cultural beliefs and traditions throughout the centuries, mainly representative of the winter season and the coming of the Sun (or Son of God).
This Christmas, consider the history of the Christmas wreath as you're hanging your Christmas wreath on your front door or above the mantle. Think about what the circle means to you and your family, and decorate your Christmas wreath with symbols of love and life. Decorate your Christmas wreath with representations of this past year and the hope of what the new year brings.
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© 2011 Nicole Canfield