Spring may still be a few weeks off, if that groundhog is to be believed, but finally it seems most Christmas decorations have been taken down across Long Island, and we can begin looking to those days when homes to come to life with bursts of color in the garden and lively decorative touches around house. There are any number of ways to capture the joy embodied in the cycle of the year having come full circle, back to this beginning, and among the most beloved signs of any season is the wreath.
Wreaths have long been symbolic of joy and celebration, but perhaps most typically associated with winter. In Christianity, many believe the wreaths of holly we see adorning homes during the Christmas season symbolize the crown of thorns that Jesus Christ wore on the cross. Wreaths of other evergreens that evolved over time have extended the symbolism to include immortality, the preservation of greenery as showing the power of life and hope to survive through the cold, harsh months.
Outside wintertime we’ve all seen wreaths of bright flowers and plants and vines and such, not only evergreens. Numerous historians have traced the origins of ornamental wreaths further back in time to 150 B.C. or so, to personal adornment worn on the heads of ancient Greeks, for whom interwoven bands of laurel represented victory in sporting competition and, for the Romans, who applied the laurel wreath to winning in battle.
The very shape of the wreath itself conveys infinity, continuity, no beginning and no end. The circle also brings to mind the sun and the moon, the endless cycle of day and night that carries us through every day and month of the year. Native-Americans, Celtic and Norse cultures have all used wreaths to capture and express these concepts, even presenting them as wedding gifts to symbolize unity and wholeness.
In many cases, the substance of the wreath can hold additional meaning. A wreath woven of wheat, for example, symbolizes hospitality and bounty. One made of grapevines suggests fertility and abundance. Magnolias represent dignity and nobility, good luck and stability, while sunflower wreaths exude passion and sunshine.
Of course, when hung on your front door, perhaps most important is a wreath’s ability to capture and express your individual taste and style, to celebrate a season and to say to guests, simply, welcome…