Wreath: Wikis


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Christmas wreath with six bows
Wreath of Rowan berries
A girl wearing a Ukrainian costume with a wreath


What is a Wreath?

A wreath is an assortment of flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs and/or various materials that is constructed to resemble a ring. They are used typically as Christmas decorations to symbolize the coming of Christ, also known as the Advent season in Christianity. They are also used as festive headdresses as attire in ceremonial events in many cultures around the globe. Wreaths have much history and symbolism associated with them. They are usually made from evergreens and symbolize strength, as evergreens last even throughout the harshest winters. Bay laurel may also be used, and these wreaths are known as laurel wreaths. The circular shape of the wreath is seen as a common symbol of eternity. The use of wreaths varies by culture, tradition and religions. For example, in Canada, wreaths are used as remembrance. In Christianity, it is used to prepare for Jesus’ birth and in many cultures around the world, wreaths are used in weddings as a headdress. The history behind wreaths dates back thousands of years and much of the symbolism lies with Greek mythology, Roman tradition with the present day usage being focused on Advent and for festive décor.

History and Symbolism


Greece and Rome

In the Greco- Roman world, wreaths were used as an adornment that could represent a person’s occupation, rank, their achievements and status. The wreath that was commonly used was the laurel wreath. The use of this wreath arose from the Greek myth involving Apollo, Zeus’ son and the god of life and light, who fell in love with the nymph Daphne. When he pursued her she fled and asked the river god Peneus to help her, in which Peneus turned her into a laurel tree. From that day forth, Apollo wore a wreath of laurel on his head. This became associated with what Apollo embodied; victory, achievement and status and would later become one of the most commonly used symbols to address achievement throughout Greece and Rome. [1]

The laurel wreath was also used to crown victors at the Pythian games dating back to the 6th century BCE and was later used in the Olympics as well. In present day society, the use of the laurel wreath is still honoured as to follow tradition. Olympic medals today are designed with a sprig of laurel engraved to pay homage to the first Olympic games. A more recent example is the coins minted for the 2004 games that were help in Athens, Greece. They featured an olive wreath on them, as well as the victors were crowned with an actual laurel wreath [2]

The Romans use of laurel wreaths echo the Greek traditions. The wreath was a symbol in the arts, literature, government and education in Roman society. In the arts, it expressed that one was valued and respected with a laurel wreath resting atop one’s head. Ovid, the famous Roman poet, is almost always depicted with laurel in his hair. Kings in both Greece and Rome dawned the laurel wreath to illustrate sovereignty. [3]. Julius Caesar for example, proclaimed the laurel wreath “to be a symbol of the supreme ruler.” [4]. The wreaths worn by kings were reminiscent of the traditional laurel wreath by the shape and its connotation yet were embellished with gold and gems. This eventually led to the modern day crown.

Advent Wreath

Since the classical use and symbolism if wreaths, the meaning and representation has taken on differing views, depending on the culture. In Christianity, wreaths are used to prepare for the Advent season or the ‘coming of Christ.[5]. The first known association with these now modern day wreaths dates back to the Lutherans in Germany in the 16th century. Johann Wichem used a wreath made from a cart wheel to educate children about the meaning and purpose of Christmas, as well as to help them count its approach. For every Sunday of Advent, starting with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, he would put a white candle in the wreath and for every day in between he would use a red candle [6]. The Advent wreath is constructed of evergreens to represent everlasting life brought through Jesus and the circular shape of the wreath represents God himself, with no beginning and no end. The Advent wreath is now a popular symbol in preparation for the coming of Christ, to mark the beginning of the Christian Church’s year and as décor during the Christmas festivities.

As an attire

A wreath is a headdress made from leaves, flowers and branches. It is typically worn in festive occasions and on holy days.


  1. ^ Ovid, and A.D. Melville, trans., Metamorphoses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) p.41-44
  2. ^ Victoria Sherrow, Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History (Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Press, 2006) p.4
  3. ^ Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante, The World of Roman Costume ( Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001) p. 82
  4. ^ Sherrow, p. 5
  5. ^ “Advent”, Harper’s Magazine (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishing, 1896) p. 776
  6. ^ Angie Mosteller, Christmas: Celebrating the Christian History of American Symbols, Songs and Stories (USA: Celebrating Publishing Inc., 2008), p. 154-155

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WREATH (0. Eng. wrieP, from wriOan, to twist), a band of leaves, flowers or metal, twisted into a circular form, and used either as a chaplet or diadem for the head or as an ornament to be hung upon or round an object. For the ancient usages of crowning victors in the games with wreaths, and the bestowal of them as marks of honour see Crown and Coronet.

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Garland placed on the head as a token of honor. The wealthy bridegroom and bride, on the day of their nuptials, were ornamented with crowns of precious metal and jewels, while the poor adorned themselves with twisted bands of roses, myrtles, and olive-leaves. The Mishnah mentions wreaths made from vine-branches and from ears of corn ('Ab. Zarah iv. 2). When Jerusalem was besieged the Rabbis forbade the wearing of crowns, but permitted wreaths of flowers (Soṭah 49a, b). R. Jeremiah as a groom wore a wreath of olive-leaves, while Samuel regarded the prohibition as including wreaths also, as a sign of mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem (Yer. Soṭah ix. 15). When Rabina discovered Mar bar R. Ashi in the act of twisting a wreath for his daughter, Ashi claimed that women were exempted from the prohibition (Giṭ. 7a).

The first-fruit offerings were tastefully arranged, and the ox which the people took to Jerusalem for a sacrifice was crowned with a wreath of olive-leaves on its horns (Bik. iii. 3). A scholar, on being ordained, was garlanded with a wreath known as "the crown of the ḥakam" ('Er. 53b; Tan., Ki Teẓe, 6). In Talmudic times the cup of wine for grace was decorated with a wreath (Kohut, "Aruch Completum," vi. 189). The "vine" referred to in Gen 40:10 is symbolicof Israel, and the "three branches," or wreaths, represent the Temple, the king, and the high priest (Ḥul. 92a). See Crown.

Bibliography: Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, p. 195.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.


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