Today my sister, my son and me gathered greenery in the forest and the garden and made wreaths. If this makes us sound like the Waltons let me assure you, we really aren’t. It was freezing, numb fingers, plenty of moans. We even joked how we always think these activities will be idyllic but the practicalities of sitting outside wrapping greenery around willow rings is always a bit less fun than it seems. Like Pinterest, the reality isn’t quite the same as the theory. Still we do it every year. It’s now a thing. And I’m damned if I’m giving up on it. Maybe it’s because it’s not just our thing, it’s everyone’s.
You see, we are keeping a tradition that has been going for millennia of brining evergreens indoors to celebrate winter festivals. We all like to think that we are new and different, that the things we are doing are ‘special’ but of course, there’s really nothing new under the sun. Apart from maybe Coronavirus, that relatively novel in fairness. Anyway, I digress, the point is that we carry on traditions that I guess stem from ‘need’ – something intrinsic to us that we need to respond to a need.
Egyptians brought date palms decorating homes around the time of the winter solstice. The Romans used fir trees to celebrate a winter festival of Saturnalia (late December) to adorn their temples. Celtic druids cut mistletoe and offered it as blessing, houses bedecked with firs, holly and pine. The symbology is the same, hope, a return of life, a reminder that spring will come and with it new growth and change.