History of the Wreath, cont.
Evergreen wreaths were often used during funeral processions in ancient Greece. The evergreen was a symbol of everlasting life, and the dead were sent on to the after-life with prayer and hope that they would move on to the next life. Often, young girls would lead the procession with a wreath of white flowers signaling the purity of spirit.
The Christmas wreath has its origins in the practice of an Advent wreath from pre-Christian Germanic tradition. During the cold December dark of Eastern Europe, evergreen branches were twisted together in a circle to symbol the cycle of the seasons. The Advent wreaths were set on fire as a sign of hope for the coming spring. Christians keep this popular tradition alive, and sometime during the 16th century, both Catholics and Protestants added candles and used the wreath in services. Three candles of violet and one of rose were lit in a succession of weeks at the start of the mass. A single white candle would be added to the center of the ring on Christmas Eve representing Jesus Christ's birth.
Harvest wreaths of bendable twigs had decorated doors for many centuries, some for protection and others for simple decoration. In the 18th century depictions of evergreen or fir wreaths adorning doors and windows began spreading. There is some proof that the tradition came over with the settlers, but the tradition didn't gain popularity until the 1900's.
Today, the Christmas wreath is a melting pot of tradition and history as old as written time. Wreaths can be of any shape and size, including the shape of a cross, candy cane or triangle, and can be decorated with ornaments, flowers, moss, ribbons, pinecones and any other themed items.