For thousands of years, the approach of winter was a dire, fearful time for humans. It meant famine and illness and death were on the horizon. That the world would be plunged into relentless cold and darkness and that not everyone would survive. It was a time to huddle together. To batten down the hatches. To hide away and hold on till spring.
December (and the winter solstice specifically), marked the pinnacle of this desolate season. But many cultures also used this as a time to celebrate life and light in the face of the encroaching darkness. To gather with loved ones around the fire. To feast and sing and share what little we had squirreled away. To celebrate the simple fact that we were still alive. Now don't get me wrong, humans have plenty of flaws, but I think there is something deeply beautiful about that. That on the longest, coldest nights of the year, when all was quiet and frozen and bleak, we shined our flickering lights into the vast darkness and found joy.
I love that you can still find remnants of these ancient rituals in our modern holiday traditions. Little echoes of forgotten customs. We still hang lights in dark windows. We feast and sing. We bring in evergreens that don't mind the cold. Perhaps one of the most ubiquitous of these symbols is the humble wreath. There are many theories on the origin of this tradition, but my personal favorite is that the hearty evergreens and circular shape represent eternal life in the face of winter. We hang them in our doors and windows to remind our neighbors, "It's alright, friends. Even in the darkest days of winter, some things stay green." What a lovely thought.
I made this simple wreath with bay laurel and eucalyptus and an old embroidery hoop. Nothing too fancy. Just simple supplies, a little time and a cup of peppermint tea. It felt good to slow down and breathe deep and play with plants for a while. A nice slow segue into the bustle of the holiday season.
Happy December, dear ones. Here's to sharing and celebrating and shining our little lights. So much love to you.
- Hearty greens (I used branches of bay laurel as my base. They hold up nicely and smell amazing)
- Smaller greens & berries for texture (I used gunny, blue and seeded eucalyptus as well as a few dried pepper berries)
- Embroidery hoop of any size
- Floral wire
1. Start by cutting your bay laurel branches into more manageable lengths. I cut mine into roughly 1 foot sections. The size of these will depend on the size of your embroidery hoop. I set aside a few small sprigs to fill in any sparse spots later.
2. Play with the natural curve of the branches to find where they want to lay on the hoop. Word to the wise: don't try to fight the natural curve of the branches. Let them lay how they want to lay and work around their natural shape. Bay laurel lends itself beautifully to a circular wreath. Using segments of floral wire, begin wrapping the branches in segments around the hoop. It's okay if the wire is visible or there are some bare spots. You can cover these will smaller greens later. Use small lengths of wire to attach each branch in 2 - 3 spots.
3. Once you have your base greenery secured around the hoop you can start playing with the smaller greens. I wove in blue and seeded eucalyptus to fill in bare spots and cover any exposed wire. I also added a few more sprigs of bay laurel here and there. Even some pheasant feathers would be cool. There is no right answer here! Have fun and play with finding the right balance. I tend to like things a little more organic and unfussy so I left mine a bit wild. You can easily tame it with some additional floral wire if thats more your style. It helps to hold the wreath up to the wall now and then to get perspective and make sure the weight is balanced.
4. Tie a pretty ribbon or twine around the top of the wreath. You can either use this to hang it, or if you have a wreath hanger you could opt for the traditional bow. As a finishing touch, I wove in a few dried pepper berries left over from our Thanksgiving table. Those little guys last forever.
5. Hang and enjoy! You can definitely hang these little loves outside, but I couldn't bare to be parted with the spicy, earthy aroma of the bay leaves. I opted to display ours in our front window so it can be seen from the street, but we can still smell it in the house. Everybody wins.