News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 16, 2012

HISTORICAL TREASURE: One shape, many symbols

Linda Patrick
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — This week’s historic treasure is considered one of the most beloved of Christmas decorations, the Christmas wreath.  

The history of the Christmas wreath can’t be determined precisely. It’s a combination of many symbols into one basic shape, the circle.  

The circle is the first known shape in human history; since it has no beginning or end it represents eternity or the circle of life, and remains the world’s most popular religious shape in many faiths.  

The word “wreath” is linked to our word “wrist” and to the Middle English word “wrethe,” a continuous circular shape or band or ring of leaves or flowers twisted into a garland. The use of evergreens represents the promise of spring in the harshness of winter or eternal life.

Using holly in a wreath also has multiple meanings. The prickly holly leaves and red berries represent the crown of thorns put atop the head of Jesus Christ as well as the resurrection and eternal life. Holly and the Christmas wreath have come to stand for peace, joy and contentment.  

Today there are many different designs and styles of Christmas wreaths; their versatility is one of their best selling points, along with their beauty and classic charm. As you’re hanging your wreath this Christmas season take time to consider all the things it stands for.  

Why not spend part of your holiday at the Vigo County Historical Museum? Come and see the wreath on the door and the many other beautiful Christmas decorations from days gone by.