Notes on A History of Wreaths
In Greco-Roman society, a wreath was used to bestow status and victory. A simple ring of laurel would be placed as a crown on its wearer. As stated by Encyclopaedia Americana in 1847, "a wreath of flowers or leaves was naturally one of the first emblems of honour or of joy". In fact, the word wreath when translated literally means 'a thing bound around', from the Greek word ‘diadema’. Later, evergreen wreaths became customary in Pagan winter solstice celebrations, symbolising the victory of light over darkness.
It wasn’t until the 16th century that Northern Europeans, in particular Germans, began to cut down evergreen trees and bring them into their homes in winter. The trees would be trimmed into a neat triangular shape, not only for aesthetic reasons and for the practicality of getting them through the door, but also for the spiritual significance to Christians of the triangle as a symbol of the holy trinity. In an age that practised the mentality ‘waste not want not’, the off-cuts would be wound into circular hoops and hung on the trees themselves as decorations.
The tradition of adorning our houses with evergreens - be them in tree, wreath or garland form - really took off in 1848 when Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert of Germany adopted the German tradition of decorating a tree at home at Christmas time. Illustrated London News depicted the Queen, who was a true trendsetter of the time, and her family gathered around a pine tree that was adorned with candles, ornaments and toys.
This year at The Garden, alongside an abundant collection of wreaths, garlands and swags, we have DIY wreath kits so you can try your hand at the ancient art of wreath making at home. Alternatively, you can roll up your sleeves and let Mark teach you how to build a wreath from base to berry at our annual Wreath School at The Fumbally Stables. Spaces are limited so don’t delay. Enrol here.