A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Trimming with Nature

Winter Wreaths

The wreath is a beautiful symbol of warmth and eternity. An evergreen plant in the endless shape of a circle is an ancient representation of everlasting life and hope. The word wreath comes from the old English word “writhen”, meaning to writhe or to twist. Wreaths are made by twisting vines or twigs into a circular frame. Evergreen plants, such as holly, ivy, and pine, have long been used to create holiday wreaths. Such greens as holly, ivy, and mistletoe have special meaning since they not only stay green, they bear fruit during the harsh winter months.
The holiday wreath has its origin in ancient civilizations. The early Greeks and Romans brought green boughs indoors as a reminder of nature’s vitality. Pagan rituals of the Winter Solstice often featured a wreath of evergreen with four candles representing the elements of earth, wind, water, and fire. In Sweden, wreaths were arranged similarly, with candles that symbolized the power of the sun. Centuries later, the tradition was absorbed by the Christian culture and evolved into the Advent wreath.
But for many of us the wreath’s symbolism is simple. The wreath is a sign of welcoming and holiday cheer—a toast to the winter season, emphasizing generosity and the gathering of loved ones. And, as with all traditions, the modern among us may be tempted to take the wreath to new levels—exploring with shape, materials, and colors. Fun modifications on a traditional wreath include working with laurel, magnolia leaves, sparkles, or even feathers.
There is something special about making your own wreath. Here are some wreath-making tips for those who are inclined to endeavor upon this cheerful holiday activity!
One of the keys to a fabulous wreath is an abundance of materials. Some basics you should have on hand include greens, pinecones, berries, bells, ribbon, hot glue gun, and wire.
Fill a large bag with 6-inch clippings from evergreen trees or bushes right outside your home. Some common local plants include cedar, pine, fir, spruce, or juniper. Use a wire wreath frame, or make your own by re-shaping twigs or branches with twine, or using a wire clothes hanger (the hook can be left for hanging your wreath).
Select several of the greens and hold them together in a bunch with the stems at one end. Place the bundle around the frame and attach it with floral wire around the bundle and frame. Gather another bundle of foliage and place it so that the leaves overlap the stems of the first bunch. Make sure both bunches face the same direction. Continue adding small bundles until the circle is complete. Lift the leaves of first bundle you attached, to add the last bundle. Step back, take a look, and trim if necessary. Add pinecones by wrapping wire to the base of the cone, and then attaching with excess wire to the wreath. Now have fun decorating (using wire and the glue gun), varying the size and placement of the ornamentations.
Whether the wreath you hang is a locally made masterpiece or a homemade hand-me-down, it has a long tradition of meaning behind it. Hanging a wreath on the door to welcome visitors, or sprucing with sprigs on a mantel, window, or stairwell to add a splash of warmth and nature on a winter’s day is a sure way to build excitement for the coming season.
–Alysse Robin