Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Origins of the Holiday Wreath

By hanging a Christmas Wreath on your door you are carrying on a tradition from the days of ancient Rome, when decorative wreaths were used a sign of victory (though these tended to be made of laurel). After each battle won the citizens of Rome would make a wreath and hang it on their door to thank their Gods.

But the origins of the Advent wreath go far back in time, to the pre-Christian Germanic tribes who during the cold and darkness of the long days of December gathered evergreens which they made into wreaths and lit fires as a sign of hope in the coming of the spring and renewed light.

Christians went on to keep these traditions alive and by the 16th century both Roman Catholics and Protestants in Germany used these symbols to celebrate Advent and their belief in Christ.

The use of the Advent wreath then spread to other parts of the Christian world. Traditionally the wreath has four candles nestling in a circle of evergreens and a fifth in the center. Three of these were violet and the fourth a rose pink but nowadays four white or violet are acceptable. Each week in December one candle would be lit, possibly with a short prayer and before the evening meal until the lighting of the center one on Christmas Eve to represent Jesus Christ being born again (We did this in my household growing up, and we even made the wreath ourselves from pine cuttings from the woods surrounding our home).

Perhaps as you hang your festive wreath on your door to welcome friends and family to your home this year, you will give a little thought to the people who for many hundreds of years have kept this tradition alive and all the wonderful things in history it represents.

By far and away the best wreath that I've seen this year is from Beach Bungalow 8's designer, Megan Arquette. It's constructed of vintage ornaments, and I can't wait to try and make one of these for myself next year!

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