Christmas wreaths - origins & trivia
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.
What is the Meaning of the Christmas Wreath?
The term "Wreath", curiously enough, is linked to our word "Wrist", with both terms forming a continuous physical circular shape. It also came from Middle English's "wrethe", meaning a twisted band or ring of leaves or flowers in a garland.
Types of Christmas Wreaths
The Advent Wreath
Wreaths have been used symbolically for centuries. The circle or ring shape is symbolic of eternity or eternal life, because the shape has no beginning or end. Back in ancient Rome, this symbol became so powerful that people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory. Some believe that this is where the hanging of wreaths on doors came from.
Putting plants into the symbolic circular shape symbolizes the strength of life overcoming the forces of winter. Wreaths and other decorations during long winters often consisted of whatever natural materials looked attractive at this bleak time of year. People used candles, fires, evergreens, hollies, berries, and forced blossoms to hold on to the promise of spring.
Types of Christmas Wreaths
While there are many designs and styles of Christmas Wreaths, they mainly fall into two categories, the Decorative Christmas Wreath and the Advent Wreath.
The Decorative Christmas Wreath is made simply for crafts and holiday decorations, similar in use to Christmas Lights. These have a different purpose than other types of wreaths. Wreaths give a house or office the "finishing touch" to the holiday decorations. Their symbolism and look just give the area the little extra Christmas feeling. Decorative Christmas Wreaths are usually made of evergreen leaves, holly, or other materials which symbolize life throughout tough winters.
The Advent Wreath is a tradition that is a part of folklore from centuries ago. The Pre-Christian Germanic people during the cold December darkness of Eastern Europe, gathered wreaths and lighted fires as signs of hope in the coming spring and renewed light. The 16th century Catholics and Protestants used wreaths as symbols to celebrate their hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. From Germany, the use of the Advent Wreath spread to other parts of the world.
Traditionally, the Advent Wreath is made of four violet or rose candles in a circle of evergreens with a fifth candle in the middle. Each day at home, the candles are lighted before the evening meal, one candle for the first week, and then another each succeeding week until December 25th. The last candle is the middle candle of the wreath. The lighting of this candle takes place on Christmas Eve and represents the birth of Jesus Christ.