Types of Wreaths & Their Meanings

Written by laura scott
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Types of Wreaths & Their Meanings
Wreaths have been used throughout history as a symbol of different events and achievements. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

For centuries, people have been weaving flowers and branches of greens into wreaths to mark different occasions. Initially used as a headdress to symbolise some type of achievement, wreaths today are more commonly used as a decorative element whose meaning is linked to a particular event or season.

Laural Wreaths

Ancient Greeks and Romans wore wreaths as crowns, usually to signify different types of accomplishments. Poets and scholars wore wreathes of laurel leaves. Athletes who won certain competitions were crowned with wreathes of olive branches and ivy. Roman coins often depict emperors wearing laurel wreaths to signify leadership and victory in battle. Countries throughout the world have adopted the laurel wreath motif in medals awarded to honour different achievements.

Memorial Wreaths

The Victorian era developed an elaborate set of funeral traditions including human hair wreaths that memorialised the dead. Women wove the hair of their dead loved ones into intricate floral patterns backed by a metal horseshoe-shaped frame. The open-ended top symbolised a departure from the world to heaven. Today, memorial or funeral wreaths of flowers and greens are often part of funeral services. A circle symbolises eternal life after death.

Bridal Wreaths

Wreaths have been part of wedding customs and ceremonies for centuries. During the 15th and 16th centuries, grapevine wreathes were used as wedding decorations in churches and homes. Ancient Chinese brides wore wreaths of orange blossoms as a symbol of purity. That custom was brought to Europe during the Crusades and became popular through Victorian times when the orange blossoms were seen as a symbol of fruitfulness. The custom became so entrenched that the term, "gathering orange blossoms" became synonymous with searching for a wife.

Holiday Wreaths

Many people associate wreaths with the Christmas season and there are several different interpretations of their significance. The circle-shaped wreaths can symbolise the continual changing of the seasons. For some, the circular Christmas wreath is a religious symbol of God and everlasting life and love; for others it is simply a decoration using the greens and flowers available at that time of year. The Advent wreath is more closely associated with Christian culture. Set on a table with four candles to represent the four weeks before Christmas, the wreath is a symbol of the ongoing preparation for Christ's birth and the light He will bring to the world.

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