‘The Christmas wreath, so colourful and welcoming, is as packed as a snowball with tradition and symbolism,’
Roberta Hershenson, New York Times, 25th December 1988.
THE WINTER SOLSTICE
The Winter Solstice (or the shortest day of the year) was a very important celebration for Pagan cultures. The Winter Solstice represented a time of death and rebirth, the celebration of the end of the shortening daylight hours, and a whiff in the air that spring would soon be on its way.
Pagans endowed trees with spirit, and sheltered the branches of life-preserving evergreens through the winter. To symbolise the anticipation of spring, evergreen wreaths were used as a sign of the approaching spring light. Similarly, in Sweden, wreaths were created along similar lines, with candles added to symbolize the power of the sun. (1)
NYE, ANCIENT ROMAN STYLE
The Early Romans apparently gave green branches as gifts at New Year’s to bestow health and vitality upon their friends and family, while the branches were shaped into wreaths as symbols of joy and victory in classical times. (2)
HOLLY IS FOR IMMORTALITY, CEDAR IS FOR STRENGTH
Although the use of evergreen hails back to the Pagan’s interpretation of its power to ‘battle the forces of winter’, the common components used in wreaths today also carry significance.
For example, holly represents immortality (the sharp leaves representing Christ’s crown of thorns & the red berries symbolizing drops of blood), while cedar stands for strength.
THE MODERN XMAS WREATH
These days the ring shape of the wreath is seen as a symbol of eternity and has evolved into a decorative symbol of welcome; an invitation of the Christmas spirit to enter the home, and an announcement that the Christmas spirit dwells within.