Well we are almost at Christmas and I thought it would be interesting to find out a little bit about some Christmas tradition so that I could appreciate it more this year, so I tried finding out more about Christmas wreaths. I have to admit I probably considered that they were made from what was trimmed off the Christmas trees and you didn’t want to put to waste, but I was wrong. There were plenty of different thoughts about Christmas wreaths but that wasn’t one of them.
The two main points most sources focused on was that they are round and made from evergreens. The evergreen was considered to be a sign of life despite the fact that it was winter and some (Germanic people) would even put candles on them as a sign of hope in a coming spring and renewed light. The circular shape is seen as representing eternity, or life without beginning or end, which Christians identify with Christ. The simple fact that it is a wreath was a sign in some ancient cultures of importance or success, specifically in Roman culture of victory. Those seem to fit well into our use of a wreath at Christmas, the darkest time of the year when light will increase as we near spring, but also as we see Christ come into the world, a source of eternal life, the light we are to follow, a victory over sin and death.
Another interpretation was specifically focused on wreaths made from holly branches. Here the connection was made between the thorns on the holly branches in the wreath as being comparable to the thorns in the crown Christ would wear on the cross. The red berries representing Christ’s blood. Connecting these with the previous symbols and we can be reminded that it is only through Christ’s suffering and the shedding of his blood that we are able to receive the life he offers us.
Now none of these are official church teachings, or even to be considered right or wrong in any sense. They are what some people understand and are trying to communicate to others and to remind themselves of when they decorate hanging a wreath. For some of us it is just a decoration that reminds us of the Christmas season that we wish to share that reminder with others. The important part is we are conscious of why we are doing what we are doing, of what it means to us, and what it might be saying to others. All of our Christmas traditions and practices should be considered that way. Why are we doing them, what does it mean to us, what does it mean for others. Hopefully, as we gather with family and friends for celebrations and parties this Christmas, giving and receiving gifts, preparing and eating special foods, continuing traditions we have, we can be reminded of the importance of the gift of Christ, in this season, and in all of our lives.