Nothing embodies the holiday spirit like a Christmas wreath. Catholic Christians use Advent wreaths to countdown the weeks to Christmas. Here are Advent wreath traditions, Bible readings and Advent prayers. This article includes DIY Christmas wreath crafts, tutorials for homemade Advent wreaths and recipes for festive wreath cookies.
Evergreen wreath history: The evergreen wreath is an ancient symbol, used to ward off evil and represent regeneration. Because evergreens don’t shed needles nor appear to die in winter, as deciduous trees do, they came to represent eternity. Evergreens like ivy, holly, laurel (bay) and mistletoe were used by the Druids and other ancient religions in their Saturnalia and fertility rites. Pagans also used parsley, rosemary and evergreen herbs. Northerners used fir, pine, hemlock, spruce and cedar for wreaths. An evergreen wreath was hung on the door to protect the inhabitants from evil spirits when someone died. This is why funeral floral arrangements traditionally took the form of a wreath.
Catholic Christian missionaries used the evergreen to share the good news of salvation with the ancients. They adapted the evergreen legend to represent eternal life in heaven. Entwining evergreen boughs into wreaths reflected the circle as a symbol of abiding faith and undying love. Geometrically, the circle as no beginning and no end, just as God has no beginning or end. This also is why many cultures exchange rings, necklaces or bracelets in marriage ceremonies. Catholic Christians use the Advent wreath in preparation for the coming of Emmanuel (“God with us” or Jesus) at Christmas.
Christians use holly in wreath-making because the red berries are symbolic of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross to take away the sins of man. An ancient legend says the holly originally bore white berries of which she was very proud. She grew along the along the Via Delorosa (the Way of Sorrows). As Christ passed by dragging his heavy cross, drops of blood fell upon the Holly’s white berries and stained them red. The holly, sorrowful and chastened for her pride, has grown red berries ever since out of love for the Lord.
Homemade Advent wreaths cheap and easy from recycled materials. Have children trace their hands on scrap green construction paper, recycled paper or green wrapping paper. Cut out hand prints and form into a Christmas wreath. Advent candles are blue or purple with one pink or rose (for Gaudette Sunday–the Sunday of Joy). Cut candles from colored scrap paper. Cut one white Christ Candle. Cut flames from orange or yellow paper. Each week, add one more flame to candles. Make Advent wreaths from green playdough. Place birthday candles in clay to form holes. Allow to harden. Reuse each year. Cut egg cartons in sets of four. Place clay and candle in each. Buy an inexpensive artificial Christmas wreath from Dollar Tree. Buy a set of four white battery-operated candles. Or buy 3 blue or purple votive candles, one rose or pink candle and one white taper or pillar candle.
Make Christmas wreath cookies. Wreath cookies are Rice Krispie treats made with Corn Flakes (to simulate leaves). Melt one stick of margarine and one 10 oz. bag of marshmallows. Add green food coloring to evergreen color. Remove from heat, cool slightly. Add 5 cups of Corn Flakes and toss to coat with marshmallow mixture. Rub hands with margarine (always a favorite part for children–your author called it “washing her hands in butter!”) Form cereal mixture into balls and make Christmas wreath cookies by pushing finger though the middle. While cookies are still warm, arrange 5-6 mini red M&Ms on top for berries. Cool on waxed paper. Make wreath cookies into Advent wreaths using blue, purple, pink and white M&Ms or colored Tootie Rolls for candles.
Make Advent wreath Christmas tree ornaments. You will need 3 blue or purple pony beads, one pink bead, 20 green pony or tri-beads, four white beads, one yellow bead and two pipe cleaners. Place one green bead on the pipe cleaner. Wrap the end over and back through the bead to secure it. Add four more green beads, one blue or purple bead and repeat, ending with pink pony bead. Form into a circle and twist ends closed. To form center Christ candle, snip two inches off the other pipe cleaner. String four white beads and one yellow bead. Tuck in top end and twist other end around wreath. Add saints medals or religious charms. Tie on a white ribbon to hang. Pray Advent novenas using the wreath like a rosary. Use green and red beads to make Christmas wreath bracelets. Give as Christmas presents or stocking stuffers.