During the holiday season, those who celebrate Christmas adorn their homes with decorations to commemorate this festive and deeply meaningful holiday. Ornaments are hung on evergreen trees and lights can be seen from the road. One of the most symbolic decorations is the wreath. From wreath-shaped cookies shaped to enameled replicas swinging from grandma's ears, the wreath is a mainstay in Christmas traditions for Christians.
A Brief History
The wreath has a rich history and was not always simply a decoration used by Christians to celebrate a holy season. In ancient Greece, wreaths were placed atop the heads of victors in the Olympic Games, and present-day medals are still engraved with the outlines of sprigs. Ancient pagans, who had deep attachments to nature, revered evergreens for their endurance through all seasons. Later, wreaths of holly and then of evergreen were used by Christians in various ceremonies and as symbols of the struggles and love of Christ. While wreaths are most commonly associated with Christmas today, their history is extensive and dates back many years.
Symbolism for Christians
For Christians, the wreath can symbolize many different things, and these meanings vary when the material used to construct the decoration changes. Wreaths made with holly and small red berries symbolize Jesus's crucifixion. The pointy holly leaves signify the crown of thorns and the little berries represent the drops of blood the sharp thorns caused. Its circular shape represents Christ's eternal love as well as the circle of life. When evergreen branches are used, the symbol is endless love because of the vigor and endurance of this type of tree. Often, usually during Advent, wreaths contain candles, which are often seen as a symbol of peace, especially during the holiday season.
Christmas and Advent
While wreaths are usually seen on doors throughout the holiday season, they also have a vital role in worship services in the weeks leading up to Christmas. There are a total of five candles set up on the special Advent wreath: one to be lit each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas and one to be lit on the day itself (although many churches choose to light the final one on a Christmas Eve service). Again, these wreaths are made of evergreen branches arranged in a circle to celebrate the eternal nature of God's love.
Wreaths are not just a decoration for Christmastime, and there are many other occasions they can be used for. For example, when evergreen and holly are replaced with cornhusks and orange leaves, the wreath celebrates autumn and the harvest time. Many of the same symbols carry over, like the round shape representing eternalness and items from nature reflecting the season.
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