by Gary L. Pierce, Horticulture Extension Agent, Harnett County
Question: What are the best plants for wreath making?
Answer: Evergreen wreaths are seen as a symbol of Christmas. They are hung on doors and displayed throughout houses and places of business. Nowadays people use whatever the stores are selling. Most folks buy their Christmas wreath preassembled.
Wreathes can reflect personal taste. Therefore, the assortment of items used to make or decorate a wreath is vast. A common theme in Christmas wreaths is the use of evergreen plants like holly, magnolia, pine or fir.
For over 4,000 years, the wreath has been used to symbolize the “wheel of the year.” The circular shape has no beginning and no end. The wreath illustrated the cycle of a year. Everything comes back, yet travels forward, over and over. Wreaths came to be used at Christmas through the influence of the Old Norse who hung them at Yule. The Old Norse word “Yule” literally means wheel.
The Yule celebration was one of many celebrations associated with the winter solstice. The winter solstice is the point when the nights get shorter and the days get longer (December 21st for us). The Yule season was seen as a sacred time of feasting and merrymaking, when everything reflected on the year to come. In olden days, the warmth of the sun meant survival. Longer days gave people hope and a reason to celebrate.
Evergreen plants symbolized life. The combination of evergreen plants as wreaths demonstrated an appreciation of the circle of life. Early Christians simply kept these traditions alive while reorienting their symbolic meanings from winter solstice to Jesus. Nowadays Christmas wreaths seem to simply symbolize the Christmas season- a holiday for getting presents, eating and watching tv.
Thoughtful wreath makers build them from plants and items that have meaning. They become personal and convey messages. These wreathes can be made of grape, kudzu or English ivy vines. They can be decorated with leaves, limbs, bows, toys, etc… Plants like fir, cedar or pine also emit wonderful smells which condition our minds to get in a festive mood.
For more information on wreath construction, visit http://virtual.clemson.edu/groups/psapublishing/pages/hort/ec696.PDF If you don’t have internet access, then call or email me at (910) 893-7530 or email@example.com
Many of our Christmas traditions have an Old Norse or Viking origin. Traditions like burning a Yule log, decorating a Christmas tree, eating ham, hanging evergreen boughs, kissing under mistletoe and caroling (still called wassailing by some Yankees). Even Santa’s elves can be claimed by the Vikings. While these are valuable parts of our Christmas circle of life, I would have hated for them to be delivered by Vikings a couple thousand years ago. “What’s in your wallet”, would have been the question posed by visiting Vikings. Isn’t it funny how that theme has remained in Christmas? The wreath reminds us that the circle goes round and round. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GO_Dq5bryNQ
Harnett County Cooperative Extension