The festive Christmas wreaths we hang on our doors today have come down to us through a long, strange, and ancient history.
In the ancient Persian Empire, 2,500 years ago, a wreath was a sign of power and authority, worn as a headdress. Later, in Greco-Roman society, hand-made wreaths of fresh tree leaves, twigs, small fruits, and flowers often represented one’s occupation, rank, military prowess, or status, like the olive or laurel wreaths that crowned ancient Olympic champions, and Caesar’s crowning wreath of green laurel leaves.
As a symbol of power and strength, even J. R. R. Tolkien, in The Lord of the Rings describes a wreath of magic gold, “The One Ring,” crafted by the Dark Lord Sauron to gain dominion over the Hobbits and all the other free peoples of Middle-Earth.
But rings of gold and wreaths of living greens all reflect a more ancient imagery. They symbolize something unending, complete, alive and eternal. So, it was natural that the wreath was adopted as an enduring symbol of Christmas.
The ancient pagan celebrations of Yule and Winter Solstice included evergreen wreaths to symbolize the never-ending cycle of the seasons. Because Winter Solstice arrived only days before Christians celebrated Christmas, Christmas wreaths were born.
In the 16th century, Yule wreaths became Advent wreaths crafted from evergreens, holly, and red berries as emblems of eternal life.
The Christian celebration of Christmas is a celebration of birth, rebirth, and eternity. And underlying those is a celebration of love. It is celebrated as a joyful season of good cheer, good will, and the hope for peace on Earth.
So, our Christmas wreaths finally bring us back around, full-circle – from power, around to love, and back to power again. After all, love may be the greatest power of all, the power to elevate others, the power to heal the broken soul, and the power to bring true peace.
This week, contributor Joni Blackman brings us the story of Wreaths Across America, one more proof that Christmas wreaths are genuine Rings of Power. The mission of Wreaths Across America is to “Remember our fallen U.S. veterans, honor those who serve, and teach our children the value of freedom.”
Wreaths, however, are not the only symbol of Christmas Joni brings us this week. Please join the Jamestown Gazette in congratulating the trophy winning Jamestown High School A Cappella Choir and the Red Raider Marching Band, back on the road again to make holiday music at Disney World in Orlando Florida, by performing in the Magic Kingdom.
Thanks to our students for bringing the music of their home town and the best music of the season to our whole nation.
Bess Streeter Aldrich, an early 20th century writer of American pioneer history wrote in her novel, Song of Years, “Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart…filled it, too, with melody that would last forever.”
So, as was said of old Ebenezer Scrooge after he discovered the true meaning of Christmas in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, “… he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!’’
And Tiny Tim said, “God bless Us, Every One!”
Enjoy the season, and as always, enjoy the read.