Wreaths are now a common sight at all times of year, but they have their origins in the ancient wreaths made for Winter Solstice.
Back in pre-industrial times, people were dependant for their survival on what they could obtain from their natural surroundings. In the northern latitudes, winter was a time when there was little food. This made the Winter Solstice very important, for on that day the days would begin to get longer and light and life would return to the Earth.
Because the return of the sun was so important, they deveoped traditions they believed would ensure the return of the light.
The everygreen wreath was one of these traditions. By making wreaths in circular shapes using evergreens that continued to survive when all other plants had died, they aligned their own intentions for life with the process occurring in nature.
Though evergreen wreaths are widely sold everywhere at Christmas time, I like to make my own. It is a way to take an hour or two away from the hustle and bustle of the season to sit and just be aware of the season and it’s meaning. I also make my wreath from local evergreens, rather than evergreens imported from other places, which connects this activity to the place where I live.
I learned to make wreaths when I lived in Northern California. I lived in a village set in hills covered with evergreen fir and bay forest, with stands of evergreen redwood nearby. I was on the Board of Directors of our local Community Center and every year we put on a Holly Fair as a fund raiser. We had tables for local craftspeople, Santa Claus, I would play the piano for sing-along Christmas carols, there were cookies for kids to decorate and we had a room set up where visitors could make a wreath and take it home.
Invariably, there would be a big storm right before this event and the ground would be covered with all kinds of fallen branches, so we had no shortage of evergreens. People would just drive around in their pickup trucks and collect them off the streets and bring them in for wreathmaking.
Usually the wreathmakers were women. The first year, they taught me how to make a wreath. In the following years, I taught other women how to make wreaths. It was so soul-satisfying to sit and talk with other women while we all sat together and fashioned these circles of life–each one unique and an expression of that woman’s own creativity. Usually we would all go home and hang them on our front doors, so I would see all the handmade wreaths as I would drive around town.
When I moved to Florida in 2002, I didn’t have a place to go to make a wreath, so I didn’t make one in 2002 or 2003 or 2004. But in 2005, I decided to just make one myself. We found a Christmas tree farm and got a native Southern Red Cedar tree, so I used sprigs of cedar trimmed from the lower discarded branches. Then I added spiky-leaded evergreen pittisporum that grows in my garden and another evergreen I haven’t identified yet. Then I added a recycled bow I received on a gift the previous year.
Now that I’m back it California I have no shortage of material with which to make a wreath this year.
How to make a wreath
Making a wreath is very easy.
Traditionally, I imagine that long grasses were used to make the wreath base, and tied into a circle with vines. Then evergreens were attached, again by tying with vines.
I’m going to tell you the modern method that I use. You’ll need some floral tape and 22 gauge wire, which are easy to find at craft stores.
First, make a circle frame with the wire to your desired size (you can also purchase wreath frames from craft stores or use a wire coathanger–leave the hook intact for hanging).
Next, gather your greens and cut pieces about 4 inches long. Strip the bottom of the stem of any greenery up about one-half inch. Make little bundles and wrap the stem end with floral tape to hold them together. For a 12-inch diameter wreath frame, I make about fifteen little bundles.
Then, attach the bundles to the wire frame with floral tape. Attach the first one, then add the next one right close so they overlap. When all the bundles are attached at their base, use the wire to attach the tops of the bundles to the base. You just need to attach the back of the bundle to the base, leaving the front free.
Add any decorations you want by attaching them with wire.
Search on “Wreath Making Instructions” or “Making a Fresh Wreath” in your favorite search engine for lots more instructions and pictures.