The act of decorating your home for the holidays, particularly your front door, has been around since the beginning of time. Or at least for several hundred years before today.
If you look at the history of crowns, you will find at least two answers about their origin. Some thoughts speculate that the ancient Romans and Greeks used them first, to honor their most esteemed citizens. The crowns denoted your occupation and citizenship status. Laurel wreaths were used to crown victorious players at the first Olympic Games.
The word crown, by itself, literally means “a thing tied around.” It also represents eternal life.
The earliest Christmas wreaths came from the pagan tradition of celebrating Yule, in which evergreen trees were twisted into a circle to symbolize the eternal seasonal cycle. The vegetation served as a reminder of spring and the green things that grew in the colder, darker months of the year.
And it was a Lutheran pastor who gave Christians their Advent wreath in the mid-19th century. Pastor Johann Hinrich Wichern made a wreath out of a wagon wheel to help children count down the Advent season to Christmas. He added candles to mark the day of the week and larger colored candles to mark each Saturday in the Advent season.
While we cannot know the exact beginnings of this tradition, hanging a wreath is a beautiful symbol of meaning and belief for many.
What we do know, however, is how a well-decorated door makes us feel. A wreath offers happiness and friendliness on arrival for family and friends alike. It makes us feel welcome as it invites us into the warm spaces of (hopefully) inner peace.
You could even say that crowns have their own right to be created and exist, simply because they are beautiful.
Gather up some energy to go for a walk and head to the hills, or your backyard, to collect some materials to make wreaths.
Natural materials for making crowns
When you keep your eyes open, you’re sure to find something in nature to add to a decorative wreath.
Here are some natural materials to consider when taking a walk in the country or the city:
- evergreen branches (pine, fir, cedar, juniper, holly, ivy)
- berries (rose hips, viburnum, hawthorn, winterberry)
- other interesting branches, such as twigs with hazel catkins
- mistletoe – if not for the crown, then for kissing below
Check out 9 Plants to Find Natural Christmas Decorations for more ideas.
Once you’ve collected your natural materials—and plenty of them, so you never have to go out into the cold again—you’re ready to choose a frame for your holiday wreath.
In this illustration, we’ve used vines as the base material, although you can replace them with willow or hazel twigs, or any other vine material (wisteria, honeysuckle, etc.) that lends itself to weaving.
To make our wreath even easier, we’ve used the vine wreath that already hangs on our door. You’ll see we’ve fixed it to add more winter cheer.
You can also start with a wire wreath frame if you have one.
Always challenge yourself to be creative, thrifty, and self-reliant whenever possible. Not only will your projects turn out beautiful, but you also have the potential to save some money. Making this crown cost us nothing. Only time, attention and collected materials went into it.
After a short hike through the hills, armed only with a pair of pruning shears, we returned with a bag of greens, twigs, and berries. The pineapples we picked up on a previous trip to a city park.
To make a wreath, in addition to your natural materials, you will also need:
And that is.
No need for hot glue, you don’t even need to use wire if you don’t want to. A good thick hemp or jute rope will be strong enough.
You may also want to wear gloves, as certain evergreen branches can be quite pithy and even cause a rash if you have sensitive skin.
Arming your crown
You don’t need to decide at first if you want the leaves to wrap all the way or just half of the crown.
Just choose a starting point and prepare a small handful of vegetables, always looking for the best ratio.
For example, in each bunch, we use 2 or 3 branches of European spruce (Picea abies), cut to size. On top of this we place a sprig of ivy (Hedera helix), a sprig of hazel catkins, or a sprig of red berries from a European blueberry bush (viburnum opulus).
To increase your love for the Earth and foraging, it’s always good to know the plants you’re harvesting and recognize them by their Latin names as well.
Tie the package tightly together with string. Then tie it to the frame of the wreath, pulling as tight as you can. Once the branches start to dry, they will shrink a bit and become limp, so now is the time to use your strength.
Add more packages to the crown
You will systematically want to tie additional bundles and overlap each bundle at the crown.
Some people choose to tie one straight, followed by the next one slanting out, followed by the third slanting in. We have placed all the packages directly on top of the previous one. It all depends on the material you are working with.
Once you’ve tied a few bundles to the frame of your wreath, hang it up and take a step back to check your progress. If you’re not happy with the way they’re tied, now is the time to change it up.
If you love it, keep hanging around until you run out of materials or find a good balance for the crown.
Another thing to consider is the weight. The more bundles you add, the heavier your crown will grow.
A word about tying…
Most wreath-making tutorials tell you to wrap that string or wire from the first bundle to the last, with no stops in between.
We chose to tie each bundle individually and the end result was fantastic.
Finish and order your crown
In the end, you can trim the stubborn parts with a quick snip with your pruning shears. Be sure to hang the wreath in its set location before cutting too much, if any.
If your wreath calls for more berries, tie up the individual stems.
Last but not least come the pineapples.
You can also tie them one by one. Take a long piece of twine, fold it in half to meet the center, and tuck it under the flaps near the base of the cone. From here you can tie a knot to secure it and then tie it into place on the wreath.
Add as many as you like, making sure to find a harmonious balance between size and shape.
In the end, if you have any leftover materials, go ahead and make a mini wreath to bring some festive greenery inside your home.
See, all it takes is a few branches trimmed from an evergreen tree to fill your home with Christmas cheer. I wish you many Happy Holidays to you and yours!