My husband and I saw a lovely wreath from our local grocery store that caught our attention. To be honest, with all the recuperating that I am still doing after the chemotherapy our house has barely been decorated. So this wreath presented a wonderful opportunity to have something hanging at our door and at the same time discuss its historical significance.
Christmas wreaths are very common decorations used worldwide.But have you ever asked yourself where did the use of Christmas wreaths originally come from? What does it symbolize?
But before explaining the history of Christmas wreaths to the children, here are a few visible thinking questions that I readied to explore it using the T-W-E Thinking Routine.
What do you THINK you know about Christmas wreaths?
What makes you WONDER about them? or what questions do you have?
How can we EXPLORE more about Christmas wreaths?
(This thinking routine can help establish how much children knows from a given topic and at the same time explore questions they might have about it)
Our kids were fascinated by the idea of making our own Kerstkrans (Christmas wreath in Dutch). They know that it hangs by the door and that it is adorned with trimmings. Our daughter even asked if it was real or plastic. Some of the conversation that ensued were questions on "how is the "circle" made?", "how are we going to hang it?", "what are we going to put?", "can we also put other things?"
All these questions were interesting to hear from the kids as they busily made ribbons for the decorative balls that I also set up together with the wreath.
So where do Christmas wreaths originate from?
What is the history of the Christmas wreath and why do we use them as part of Christmas traditions?
Brief Historical Background:
The making of wreaths is an ancient art that began years before the birth of Christ. The wreathe can be traced back to the Persian empire where originally a "diadem" or a circlet of fabric headbands adorned with jewels were used as a symbol of success or fortune.
The Greeks also used wreaths made of laurel to recognize the winners of their Olympic games.
During the Roman empire, military and politicians wore crowns of greenery and leaves. The transition of the wreath from being a headpiece to a door decoration is believed to be due to athletes who returned home and hung their crowns on the door as a status symbol of their victory.
Pre-Christian, or Pagan, cultures placed much importance on the December celebration of the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year). It was believed that this was a time of death and rebirth, a celebration of the end of the ever shortening days and the anticipation of the coming promise of spring and used boughs of holly as their decorations.
Christmas wreaths and Christianity
At Christmas, the wreathe (circle/sphere) became a symbol of Christian immortality .Most historians believe that the use of wreaths at Christmas time spread across Northern Europe, Spain and Italy during the early 19th century. They based these according to drawings and paintings during this period. The wreath became a symbol of preservation of life amidst the cold winter months and the holly berries that were used to adorn the wreaths symbolized the blood of Christ.
MODERN CHRISTMAS WREATHS
It is also believed that Europeans also used wreaths on their doors to represent their family identity, much like a family crest. The wreaths were made from plants grown in their own grapevines, gardens or produce. It became a family ritual of crafting wreaths from one's own garden.The traditional Christmas wreath is hung anytime from right after Thanksgiving to mid-December and left hanging through the winter months.Today, wreaths are a common custom in New England, with a different wreath for each season.
In the Netherlands, the Christmas wreath is made from "kerstgroen" (Christmas greenery) such as pine, fir, evergreens and can be adorned with pine cones, ribbons and Christmas balls and lights.
Nowadays, the Christmas wreath has evolved into a sign of welcoming and merriment during the holidays for family and guests. As the kids got busy finishing the last trimmings, my husband is now contemplating on how to hang it by our front door, ushering the spirit of Christmas for everyone who grace our home.
TIDBIT OF INFORMATION: Did you Know Where the Word Wreath Came From?
The word wreath came from the old English word "writhen" this means "to twist" or "to writhe".
Check out more Christmas traditions