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The History of the Christmas Wreath

As December arrives, calendars flip, the 25th is circled, and Christmas decorations are dug out of storage. One of these decorations, the wreath, has a long history. Coming from the Old English word “writhian,” which means “twist,” wreaths are usually made by twisting greenery together and adorning with flowers, berries, and other decorative materials. Often created from the trimmings of Christmas trees as they’re given their signature triangular shape, wreaths are a great way to prevent waste and celebrate winter festivities. Today, wreaths are recognized as a holiday decoration, but throughout history, many cultures have used wreaths for a variety of purposes.

The first instance of wreaths in use can be traced back to the Persian Empire, ancient Egypt, and ancient Greece. However, these cultures didn’t use them to decorate doors and walls; they used them as headdresses. Wearing a laurel wreath was a symbol of power, authority, honour, or victory. Often, they were adorned by Olympic athletes, priests, brides, victorious warriors, and guests of honour.

Wreaths first made their debut as holiday decorations in connection with Yule, which marked the winter solstice and was celebrated by the ancient Germanic and Scandinavian peoples. The wreaths were a symbol of spring and a promise of its return, as evergreens stayed green all year round. The Romans also had a similar celebration, where they would worship Saturn, the god of agriculture. Holly wreaths were used in this instance as both decorations and gifts.

Today the most common use for wreaths is in connection to Christmas. Christians adopted the idea of using wreaths from Yule in the 16th Century. The circular shape symbolized eternal life and the never-ending love of God. In the 19th Century, the use of Advent wreaths gained popularity as a part of the Christian tradition. Four wreaths held four candles, one for every week of Advent. Each candle and wreath symbolized something different: hope, love, joy, and peace. For others, wreaths have become merely a merry decoration and a symbol of Christmas spirit.

This holiday season as you see wreaths hanging on front doors and embellishing walls, you can think back on the rich history of these picturesque decorations. Laurel, evergreen, and holly are just some of the many plants used throughout history to symbolize important festivities. If you’re looking to add to your family traditions or just want to revel in some Christmas spirit, there are many wreaths to choose from, some extravagant and some beautifully simple. Find one that’s perfect for you!


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