I’d never made one before but I would get wreath envy when passing other people’s front doors.
You know, the front doors that are highly polished in a traditional green, red, black or dark blue, with the best shiniest brass twinkling in the sunlight, and a living moss ring with, say, classy sweeping fronds of artfully arranged greenery, dried fruits, faded hydrangea heads and a perfect fat bow to round it off.
Contrast with that feast, those ones I have bought in the past (not being able to bring myself to afford £40 plus) – cheap and made of holly – for sale at the greengrocers. Fine; slightly unimaginative; into the bin 6 January. Or a bit more daring, one year with a twiggy base, which looked nice and natural, and fir cones/pot pouri bits stuck on in glue. Which then unstuck themselves and fell off one by one every time someone came in or out of the door.
I don’t think of myself as ‘crafty’; mainly because I don’t have the patience, but I do love the look of beautiful things and the feeling of using part of the creative brain which often lies dormant during the energy sapping admin that comes with parts of a cleric’s job. Wreath making beats a headstone application process hands down.
I’ve no idea where the custom of wreath hanging comes from, or whether white roses, hessian bows, and papier mache apples are anything to do with the Christmas message. But I had a song going round my head whilst making the wreath: The Holly and the Ivy, one of the most haunting and unusual of the Christmas Carols.
The writer sees the story of Christ’s birth and death reflected in the natural world. Some think the song has pagan origins and may have survived more than 1000 years. It is sweet and simple and relies on the colour, texture and properties of the holly plant to paint the story of Christ.
The blossom of the holly is white, like the purity of the Christ child and his mother. The berry is red, like the blood he will shed on our behalf. The berry is ‘as sharp as any thorn’: one thinks of the crown of thorns perhaps, with the holly bark ‘as bitter as any gall (offered to crucifixion victims to dull the pain). ‘Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown’.
Substituting silk roses for holly blossom, hips and haws (not real) for holly berries, green pipe cleaners for thorns, and tiny peg-hearts for bark, the effect of creating a wreath was quite similar to hearing a top choir singing that haunting ancient carol: a surprisingly rich feast during the somewhat sombre liturgical season of Advent.