Some people think that the Christmas wreath is a symbol of Christ’s crown of thorns. There may be some connection, but the actual origin of the wreath dates back to ancient Greece where the Greeks rewarded Olympic victors and other high achievers with laurel crowns. It’s unclear how such headgear was transformed into wall decor, but perhaps people just hung their crowns up as souvenirs. Neither Christmas nor Advent wreaths are worn as headbands, though for the Swedish festival of St. Lucia, on December 13, the family’s eldest daughter wears a headpiece decorated with greenery and nine lighted candles.
Though early Roman Christians used laurel in their Christmas decorations because it symbolized victory, glory, and cleansing from guilt, Europeans largely favored evergreens. In cold, northern climates, people latched onto anything that represented light and life against darkness and despair. As a result, their favorite winter symbols included plants that stayed green all year. The evergreen plant can symbolize the everlasting love of God.
The Advent wreath possibly originated in pre-Christian Germanic culture. During the cold December darkness of Eastern Europe, wreaths of evergreen were gathered as signs of hope in a coming spring. Christians incorporated this popular tradition, and by the 16th century, Catholics and Protestants throughout Germany used evergreen wreaths with candles to celebrate the coming of Christ, the everlasting Light. Traditionally, the wreath is made of four candles in a circle of evergreens with a fifth candle in the middle. Each day the candles are lit, one candle the first week, and then another each succeeding week until December 25th. The last candle is the middle candle. The lighting of this candle takes place on Christmas Eve. It represents Jesus Christ being born.
So how do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?
As you look at all the Christmas wreaths this year, think of how the Greeks used wreaths as a sign of victory and remember this verse about the Ultimate Victor 1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.