Christmas Wreath Meaning: Traditions & Symbolism

The decorative Christmas wreath has symbolic meaning, even down to how you display it.

Updated October 21, 2019
Christmas Wreath Hanging on Red Barn Door

A wreath adds beauty and color to the season, but the Christmas wreath meaning contributes more than just splendor. There is an inherent Christian spiritual meaning of eternal life associated with Christmas wreaths, but other meanings and symbols are found in ancient Rome and Greece.

Early Wreath Traditions

According to Britannica Encyclopedia, the wreath is an ancient status symbol. Wreaths were made of bay laurel, pine, herbs, and flowers. Each addition to a wreath had a specific meaning as a ritual or cherish symbol.

  • Ancient Romans wore crowns of laurel wreaths to denote power and were often donned by politicians and civil servants.
  • Roman soldiers were bestowed wreaths of honor when they returned from battle.
  • In ancient Greece, the cherished prize for an orator and poet was a wreath. Olympic winners were also awarded a wreath.
  • Ancient Egyptians sewed flowers onto strips of cloth forming head wreaths, often used to decorate statues of gods.
  • Early Germanic cultures used a wreath table decoration and later added candles to the traditional winter solstice evergreen circle. The wreath was a winter reminder that spring would return and the Earth would once more turn warm.

Christmas Wreath Meaning and Symbolism

Each part of the Christmas wreath has a meaning in keeping with the season.

The Circle

Traditional wreaths are in the form of a circle. This circle has numerous meanings, both to Christians and non-Christians alike:

  • The eternal presence of God, with no beginning and no end
  • The cycle of the seasons, from spring to winter and eventually to spring again
  • The hope of life renewing itself
  • The hope of eternal life through Christ, the Savior
  • The unending love of God

Materials in the Wreath

The early wreaths were made out of several evergreen materials. The evergreens in general represent continuity and survival through difficult times. Each evergreen used, however, also has a meaning:

  • Holly represents the crown of thorns that Christ wore at the Crucifixion
  • Pine, holly and yew symbolize eternal life
  • Cedar stands for healing
  • Laurel represents the conquest over pain and suffering
  • Pine cones, seeds, and nuts represent birth and rebirth


The traditional Christmas colors of red and green also have symbolic meaning. Green represents the life and growth. For Christians, it stands for the eternal life of the soul. Red signifies the blood Christ shed on the cross.

Advent Wreath Meaning

This special type of seasonal decoration is full of symbolism. The Advent wreath was adapted from the Germanic custom of the tabletop wreath. It has become a popular custom in several Christian denominations, originating with the Lutheran church and adopted by the Catholic, Episcopal, and Anglican churches.

Candle Colors of Advent Wreaths

Many families use an Advent wreath a part of their celebration. Advent wreaths usually consist of an evergreen circle, three purple candles, one rose candle and one white candle (center of wreath). Some people forego the white candle, opting only for four candles. The purple and pink candles represent the four weeks before Christmas, called Advent and the white candle represents the Birth of Christ. A Bible verse is usually read and a short prayer follows.

All five candles lit on an advent wreath
  • The lighting of the Advent wreath candles reminds that Christ is the Light of the world.
  • The color purple advent wreath candles symbolizes reverence and prayer.
  • The white candle represents the purity of Christ and the Virgin Birth.

Wreath on Door Meaning

There are several ancient customs of hanging a wreath on the front door. For example, Ancient Greeks left a wreath on their lover's door as a token of devotion. According to the Windsor Garden Club, hanging a wreath on the door of your home has ancient roots throughout Europe. Harvest wreaths were common and consider sacred symbols of preparation for harsh winter months.

Wreath in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Adding Foods to Greenery

In the tradition of celebrating the fall harvest, many front door evergreen wreaths were decorated with nuts and fruits from the last harvest. The wreaths were hung on front doors to serve as a protection charm. Many homes were adorned year-round, like the practice of Scandinavian farmers in an effort to bring good fortune to each season's crops.

Fun Facts About Wreaths

From door wreaths to the religious Advent wreaths, there are many meanings and symbols tied to the use of wreaths. Each one has specific meanings to various cultures.

Thanksgiving Wreath Hanging On Front Door
  • In ancient times, wreaths were given as prized gifts.
  • The Advent wreath represents the anticipation of the coming of the Christ child.
  • Pagan rituals often included a type of wreath that represented the current season.
  • In colonial days, American colonists used evergreens to fashion wreaths and decorated with harvest crops.
  • Herbal wreaths were used to ward off evil and diseases.
  • Ancient Romans wore wreaths made of specific greenery or flowers to signify their social status.
  • Wreaths were often given as gifts for weddings, births and to signify/celebrate other life events.
  • Rosemary wreaths were often worn by brides as symbols of their love, symbol of her previous life circling into her new life and everlasting love.

Origins and Meaning of the Christmas Wreath

The Christmas wreath is a beautiful decoration full of religious symbolism from various cultures. It denotes the spiritual belief in life everlasting and the rebirth of the spirit. To Christians, it is a way of professing the miracle birth of the Christ child.

Christmas Wreath Meaning: Traditions & Symbolism