The wreath has a rich history. Adorning our doorways, mantels, and windows, wreaths have become a staple in holiday décor. Americans will spend nearly $15.5 million in 2019 on Christmas decorations, with a hefty portion of that budget going to wreaths.
History of Wreaths
The word wreath comes from the English word “writhen,” meaning to writhe or twist. The first use of wreaths is traced to ancient Rome, over 2,000 years ago. Constructed of laurel or olive branches, wreaths were placed on doors or worn as crowns to celebrate victory and represent social status.
Harvest wreaths made from grains and various crops were popular in Europe among followers of Animism; those who believed that all things (animals, objects and places) hosted a spiritual essence. During winter evergreen branches were brought indoors to celebrate the tree’s spirit and encourage health and prosperity to friends and family. Eventually, branches were crafted into wreaths and symbolized joy.
Floral May Day wreaths originated in ancient Europe, making festive decorations to celebrate the arrival of Spring. Windflowers and green leaves are twisted together to create a wreath and hung on doorways and balconies until mid-summer.
By the Renaissance period, wreaths were adopted by the Christian religion and took on a new symbolism: Christ’s eternity and the never-ending circle of life. Holly branches were sometimes added to represent Jesus’s crown when crucified, with the red berries symbolizing the blood he sacrificed.
The use of commemorative wreaths dates back to ancient Greece; evergreen wreaths placed at burial sites celebrated the eternal spirit. Today, commemorative wreaths are commonly placed on the gravestones of soldiers during Memorial and Veterans Day.
The Bough Business
Known for their evergreens, it’s no surprise the Pacific Northwest supplies over 25 million pounds of evergreen boughs globally during the holiday season. This makes the bough business a multimillion-dollar industry for large and small tree-farms in the Northwest. Common Northwest tree species used in wreath making are Noble Fir, Douglas Fir, Red Cedar, Incense Cedar, Pacific Silver Fir, White Pine and Juniper.
Bough harvest starts as early as September and continues through early December. Companies are encouraged to follow sustainable harvesting practices, such as replanting and not over cutting. After cutting, boughs are quickly transported to a cool area to maintain freshness.
How Wreaths are Made
Each year wreath companies hire additional seasonal workers to meet demand. For a local Pacific Northwest company, Floral Continental Greens, 300 additional workers are brought on from October 1st through December 10th. Floral Continental Greens describes their seasonal wreath ring employees needing, “both skilled agile hands and also an eye for beauty.”
There are two ways wreaths can be made; hand wrapping or using a wreath machine. Each method requires different equipment, techniques and skills.
Hand wrapping is the original and traditional method of wreath making. A single or double wide metal ring is used as the base. Evergreen boughs are attached to the rings with florist wire, using the metal ring as a guide.
The hand wrapping technique is popular with small companies and individual crafters as it requires less equipment, the tradeoff being an increased need for labor.
The wreath machine uses rings with clips. One by one, each clip is lined up with the clamps on the wreath machine and evergreen boughs are placed between the clips. Using a foot pressed leaver, the machine clamps close, crimping the clips and securing the boughs inside.
Large companies tend to choose the wreath machine over hand wrapping, as it increases production and requires less labor.
Oregon Wire has supplied the Northwest with wreath rings since 1973. We’re able to meet your holiday needs with a variety of wreath ring shapes and sizes; including snowflakes, crosses, hearts, candy canes and swags. Our classic circular wreath rings range from 4 inches, all the way to 72 inches. We also have a large selection of accessories to bring your holiday or commemorative wreaths to life.
A Classic Decoration with a Long History
The wreath remains a decoration with a rich history, spanning many centuries and cultures. As you hang your wreath this holiday season, take time to both admire and appreciate its ancient use and continued meanings.