Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Origin of the Holiday Wreath

With the holiday season upon us, there are so many things that we do just because we always have.  Why do we put up a tree?  Why do we put lights on the tree?  Why do we hang a wreath on our door?  Why do you have to kiss if you get caught under the mistletoe?  Who is Santa Clause?  Why do we only see poinsettias at Christmas time?  I thought it might be a good idea to do some research and find out the answers to these questions.  So hold on to your undies as today’s post is the origin of the holiday wreath. 

In ancient Rome, people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory. Some believe that this is where the hanging of wreaths on doors came from.  The origins of the Advent wreath are found in the folk practices of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples who, during the cold December darkness of Eastern Europe, gathered wreaths of evergreen and lighted fires as signs of hope in a coming spring and renewed light. Christians kept these popular traditions alive, and by the 16th century Catholics and Protestants throughout Germany used these symbols to celebrate their Advent hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. From Germany the use of the Advent wreath spread to other parts of the Christian world.

Traditionally, the wreath is made of four candles in a circle of evergreens with a fifth candle in the middle. Three candles are violet and the fourth is rose, but four white candles or four violet candles can also be used. Each day at home, the candles are lighted, perhaps before the evening meal-- one candle the first week, and then another each succeeding week until December 25th. A short prayer may accompany the lighting of each candle. The last candle is the middle candle. The lighting of this candle takes place on Christmas Eve. It represents Jesus Christ being born.

Today you can find wreaths in just about any color and theme.  I hang a spring wreath on my door with brightly colored flowers.  In the summer I hang a wreath that is red, white and blue in honor of our country and freedom.  I have a fall wreath that has pumpkins and gourds.  Finally, I have a Christmas wreath that lights up and is filled with gold ribbons and bulbs of holiday colors.  My sister has one that has snowmen on it and my mother just hangs a douglas fir wreath that gives off a pine scent. 

May you find the perfect wreath that warms your heart!

R. K. Avery