For centuries, our ancestors decked their halls by hanging the greens, but for very different reasons than churches of today. Long ago, cultures like the Druids, Celts, Norse and Romans celebrated Saturnalia or the winter solstice around December 21.
As the days became shorter and the longest night of the year approached, their fears that the sun might not return were roused. To entice the sun god to continue its gifts of warmth and light, they created rituals and celebrations with huge bonfires and riotous revelry. They also noticed some plants remained green throughout the year. So they brought these plants, like holly and evergreens, into their homes as lucky charms to guarantee the return of greenery and growth in the spring.
We deck the halls of our churches to symbolize God’s eternal love for us. Like the colors of holly and evergreens, His love never changes.
We use evergreens in the Advent wreath each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means arrival or coming. It refers to the season of hope and anticipation we celebrate the four Sundays before Christmas.
The Advent wreath began as a Lutheran custom from eastern Germany. Shaped like a circle with no beginning and no end, it symbolizes God’s eternal love and mercy.
In ancient times, wreaths were the common man’s crown. They represented honor and wisdom and were used by the Druids, Celts, Romans and Greeks.
Ancient Egyptians are credited with creating the first candles. They made torches from reeds soaked in melted tallow or animal fat. The Romans took that idea and created wicks so that people could travel easier in the dark and use them to light their homes.
For Christians, the symbolism of the candle is strong: Christ is the light of the world and lights our lives and our journeys, just like the candles of the Romans and Egyptians. Candles remind us to reflect God’s love and grace in our lives.
The Advent wreath has four candles that encircle a white candle, which is the Christ candle. One candle is lit on each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. The center candle is lit on Christmas Eve. The purple color represents penitence and royalty. White represents purity and hope.
Greenery, the Advent wreath, candles – all are symbols of God’s eternal love that lights our lives. From one generation to the next – God’s love for all people, all ages and all times.
Read more stories about Christmas plants and traditions in Decking the Halls – The Folklore and Traditions of Christmas Plants http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewwork.asp?id=50119