Christmas wreaths have a long, rich history that spans many centuries. Though they now represent the holiday season and a sign of goodwill toward all, they date all the way back to the Etruscans, who used them as crowns and other forms of jewelry. This was as far back as 700 B.C., so it’s clear that the symbol has been an important part of human civilization. Today, the classic form of the decoration is a circle of evergreen boughs, often adorned with pinecones, berries, bows, lights, or other items. And along with garland and other decorations, they can create an inviting atmosphere in the home.
What is the history behind Christmas wreaths?
Though they have been around for nearly three millennia, these decorations didn’t find heavy use until the rise of the Greek and Roman empires. Initially constructed from laurels or oak branches, these boughs were a sign of status and rank. They were worn on the head or displayed on the outside of a home to demonstrate status, and Roman officials were often identified by them. The Roman and Greek civilizations associated the boughs with their gods, making them sacred adornments. For the Greeks and Romans, a branch of laurel was the mark of Apollo, the triumphant god of beauty. A bough of oak was a symbol of Zeus, considered the father of the other Greek gods.
The decoration was passed down through agrarian communities, who would weave them out of wheat and other harvested crops. The hope was that by weaving and seeking a blessing for them from the local priest, a farm would have protection from crop failure for the following year.
Christmas wreaths are probably derived from this harvest tradition, though they have taken on their own meaning during the advent season. Historians believe the first association between the symbol and the holidays was in the early 19th century. Theologian Johann Wichern used the bough to explain the meaning of the holiday to his followers. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, he would place a white candle in the bough every Sunday, and a red candle every day in between the Sundays. Many subsects of Christianity still observe this tradition.
However, others recognize Christmas wreaths as a symbol of the circle of life, and the hardy evergreen as a symbol of withstanding the cold winter months. With their lush green boughs, holly and vibrant adornments, these decorations are a calm reminder that the spring and warmth will always return.
A colorful, inviting wreath is the perfect way to show your neighbors and guests that your home is filled with holiday spirit. And with a pre-lit, artificial version, you’ll always have one on hand for when the holidays come around.