Wreath- History and Symbolism

Wreath- History and Symbolism

Wreaths are usually made from evergreens boughs, as the evergreen, lasting through the severest winters, represents strength and endurance.  When bay laurel is used, it becomes a laurel wreath.

Wreath applications vary greatly. They can be used as a headdress at weddings, be part of festive attire, or be a floral tribute at funerals. They are also used in many cultures around the world as cheerful headdresses and as part of the merrymaking attire at ceremonial events.

The history behind wreaths dates back thousands of years. The source of much of the symbolism comes from Greek mythology and involves Apollo, Zeus’s son and the god of life and light, who fell in love with the nymph Daphne.  When Apollo pursued her she fled and asked the river god Peneus to help her. Peneus turned her into a laurel tree.  From that time onwards Apollo wore a wreath of laurel on his head.  This became associated with the attributes of Apollo:  victory, status, and achievement.  It became one of the most common symbols used to represent achievement. In Greece at the Pythian Games, dating back to the 6th century BC., the victors were rewarded with the laurel wreaths.  The modern Olympic medals are engraved with the design of sprig of laurel to pay homage to the first Olympic Games.  An even more recent example would be the minted coins for the 2004 Olympic games (held in Athens Greece), whereupon the victors were crowned with an actual laurel wreath.

In the Greco-Roman world, wreaths represented a person’s occupation, their achievement, status or rank.  The wreath was a symbol of excellence in government, literature, arts and education and in Roman society.  Greek and Roman Kings and Emperors have always donned the laurel wreath, later embellished with gold and gems, for it represented sovereignty.

The modern day wreath is made to resemble a ring, constructed of an assortment of flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs and various other materials depending on your creative imagination.

For the Christians the wreath has come to symbolize Advent. A special kind of wreath, called an Advent Wreath, is used to mark the passage of the four Sundays of the Advent season or the “coming of Christ”, in Christianity.  The first known association with the Advent wreaths dates back to the Lutherans in Germany in the 16th Century.  In 1839 Johann Hinrich Wichern used a wreath made from a cart wheel to educate children about the meaning and purpose of Christmas, as well as to help them measure its approach. Starting with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, he placed a white candle in the wreath and for every day in between he placed a red candle. The Advent wreath was constructed of evergreens to represent the everlasting life that was brought through Jesus and the circular shape of the wreath represented God, with no beginning and no end.

Symbolism of wreaths and the meaning has undergone quite a change over the years. Now during the holiday season when families and friends enjoy general get-togethers, parties and feasts, the wreath is simply used to adorn the main door of the home or office and has come to symbolize welcome for visitors and invited guests.

Happy Holidays Everyone.

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