The homey spirit of the holidays gets its start, appropriately enough, right at the front door.
For centuries, wreaths have been a part of the season, symbolizing our never-ending connections with nature, faith and good cheer.
As with many holiday traditions, the origins of decorative wreaths are murky. Some scholars point to ancient Rome, where laurel wreaths symbolized victory and success. More likely, holiday wreaths trace back almost 1,000 years to Germanic tribes that hung evergreen wreaths in the dark days of winter as a sign of hope for spring.
German Christians incorporated wreaths into their celebration of Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. By the 16th century, Christmas wreaths had begun to gain popularity throughout Europe. When British colonists arrived in America, they brought the tradition with them.
Today, natural wreaths are made of many things besides evergreens, from hydrangea blossoms to grapevines.
Although the materials vary, the techniques of putting them together are similar. By using greenery, leaves, berries, pine cones, twigs and other items, wreaths still complete a circle of home, humanity and nature.