Wreaths are a pretty common sight on a front door, holiday or not.

What is the origin of a wreath? When the first person put a wreath on their door, was it by happenstance? Maybe the next person thought: ‘That circular floral item is beautiful. I am going to put that on my door, too.’ To be honest, this is exactly what I thought. I saw a beautiful wreath and liked it. So, glue gun in hand, I affixed some bright yellow flowers on a grapevine wreath and attached it to my front door. I stood back, and admired it from the neighbor’s yard across the street. She loved it, too. My mother-in-law even liked, which is no small feat. She even tried to take it home. I loved that tiny yellow-flowered wreath, and it was staying with me. I was a wreath artist and I had arrived. I am a self-confessed wreath addict. I love them. I have wreaths everywhere in my home!

In my wreath fascination, did I ever sit and ponder the meaning of them? Yes, I did. There’s an interesting book out there called, Wreaths for All Seasons by James T. Farmer, III and published by Gibbs Smith. It’s a how-to book, but also has information on the background of wreaths. In the book, Farmer (2012) talks about “…whatever the season, celebration, holiday or event, there is a representational wreath.”

A symbol

Believe it or not, there is a little more to that plain old circle on the door.

Well, the fact that a wreath is a circle makes for the first assumption that our ancestors were placing it on their door for a reason. Circles are full of symbolism: unity, wholeness, continuity, and focus. And with regards to “focus,” think about how we say that we “circle in” on something when we want to focus on it. Pretty interesting stuff, right?

Its origins

The first written records wreaths date back to the ancient Greeks and Romans at around 150 BC, where members of society would wear wreaths as headdresses using fresh tree leaves, twigs, small fruits and flowers. They represented status, occupation and achievement. In fact, the word, “wreath” literally means, “that which is wound around,” and is derived from the Old English word, “wrioa.”

Wreaths for all seasons

Spring and summer wreaths are reported to mean new life and growth. Autumn wreaths mean the changing of time and the cycle of life. Autumn wreaths can also represent abundance and the harvest.

The Christmas wreath

Over time, Christmas wreaths have come to convey a meaning of “welcome” and “Christmas spirit.” However, its origins are interesting. The Advent wreath has its beginnings with the German Lutherans dating back to the 16th century. The wreath has four candles on the periphery and a white candle in the middle. The four candles symbolize the four weeks in the liturgical calendar, with a candle lit each week before Christmas. The center candle is lit on Christmas day, representing the birth of Christ. With the lighting of each candle, devotions and prayers are said. The Advent wreath had a resurgence in the 1920s and 1930s.

Early Christians used materials that represent certain ideas like evergreens that represent immortality of the soul, pinecones for rebirth and holly to represent strength.

A wreath says welcome no matter what

In modern times, Christmas and holiday wreaths represent the festivity of the holidays; a welcoming sign to adorn a doorway in the spirit of the season.

We all know those folks that go all-out for holidays. They decorate every nook and cranny of their home. It’s one of the fun parts of the holidays for them. Pam Appelquist, one of our holiday home owners for this issue, loves decorating all-year long. She really likes wreaths, too.

“I decorate with wreaths all the time. I even use them over my stained glass-window and it adds color,” she said of the neutral beveled glass panels in her home. “Wreaths add depth to a room. I also love square wreaths. They are a little out of the ordinary, but they are so beautiful when you layer them,” Appelquist said.

There are others, especially those with younger families, who have precious little time to do the all-out Christmas decorating extravaganza. Both kinds of people are just fine. Holidays are supposed to be fun and full of joy, in a do-it-your-own-kind-of-way.

Kerry Rossow, publisher of the blog, House TalkN, and founder and self-proclaimed show-conspirator of of That’s What She Said, believes whatever works is the way to go when it comes to wreaths and any other holiday home décor for that matter.

“Here is the thing with holiday wreaths. You have to be willing to commit, go all in. When my fall wreath was still hanging on our door in May, I knew that instead of saying, "Happy Fall, Y'all," it said, "Small children at home." I now use generic themed wreaths year around,” she said.