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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

History of Christmas Wreaths

I have been busy making Wreaths, so I thought I would have a look at the history behind wreaths. 
A Christmas Wreath is one of the most popular holiday decorations.  You see Christmas Wreaths used in many different ways and in many different settings. It is common to see them on the stairway, hanging on walls or doors, or even as a centre piece on a table. Christmas Wreaths are a pleasant sight throughout the holiday season.  But why do we use wreaths in our holiday decorations, and where did this tradition begin?
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.

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.
Holly and Christmas Wreaths
The ancient Druids are the first society in known history to have worn sprigs of holly and mistletoe. These priests of yesteryear believed that holly, with its glossy, shiny prickly leaves of green adorned with red berries, remained green all year due to their magical properties. The Druids considered Holly sacred. The holly berries have given us our green and red colours of Christmas.
Combining the symbolism of the wreath with the believed magical powers of Holly, the Romans exchanged Holly Wreaths as gifts. Once Christianity took hold in Rome, Holly Wreaths became Christmas Wreaths as part of popular holiday decorations, but mistletoe was considered "pagan" because of its mystic properties. In fact, in 575 A.D., a German Catholic Bishop forbade all Christmas greens and condemned them as "dangerous and heathen". Churches did not see their likeness again for centuries.
In the 16th century, the word "Holly" appeared in writing for the first time, used by Shakespeare. By the 17th century, holly had become a grander part of Christmas celebrations, the Christmas Wreath, and holiday decorations once again. The shape of the wreath symbolized the crown of thorns put atop the head of Jesus Christ, as well as the resurrection and eternal life. Holly and Christmas Wreaths came to stand for peace, joy, and contentment.

Lv Toria

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