By Anthony Valterra
An odd thing happened to me this year: I got the Christmas spirit. No, I wasn't visited by ghosts in the middle of the night. I'm actually not sure why it happened. Lisa thinks it's because our son is staying with us this holiday season before he ships off to Navy bootcamp. That might be it. It might also be that I've just reached the age where any reason to feel warm and snuggly is a good enough reason.
But in reality I think it has something to do with the more traditional reason that this season is celebrated. Long before the third century CE, when December 25th was made the official birthday of Jesus, this season was a time of celebration. But it was one tinged with trepidation. The cold months were coming. Would there be enough food? Would the wolves be at the door? Would spring actually come again? A lot of the traditions of this time period still evoke those fears. And one of those traditions is a wreath on the door.
Like most of our traditions, the Christmas wreath hung on the door has its origins in pagan times. The circle represents the turn of the year, the evergreen bows stand for life even in winter, the holly berries are a ward against evil. This year I felt the call of all those things strongly. I have a deep-seated fear that this winter may be a "dark winter," and we can use all of the protection we can get. So, even though it is merely a circle of plant parts on the door, I decided we needed a wreath.
Once again I turned to my dear old father, Don, for inspiration. I have no idea how it started for him, but a few decades ago he started making Christmas wreaths. Well, the darn things caught on, and before he knew it, he had a business. He made wreaths for a few years and then gave it up - too much work, not enough profit. But when he first started making them, he used dried grape vines for his base. As it turns out, in the corner of our yard, we have some wild grapes growing. And at this time of year the vines are just perfect. Dry enough to stay firm but wet enough to bend. I was really surprised how easy it was. The vines bent into the perfect size of circle and almost clung to each other naturally (I, of course, tied them with twine to make sure they didn't fall apart).
Once I had my base, I covered the circle with juniper branches cut from our trees. I tried to find ones with berries on them for added decoration. After that I just wandered around the yard looking for inspiration. Some passionflower vines were wrapped around the wreath to provide a leafy greenery, some sage for a silvery look, some poinsettia flowers (fake) for a top crown, and finally a wasp nest at the base of the wreath. Then just as I thought I was finished, I spied our asparagus. The shaggy asparagus with the bright red berries were too interesting not to use. They went at the bottom, forming a sort of "beard" for the wreath. Okay, maybe it isn't holly, but coincidentally both are associated with Mars and fire. A few LEDs to light it up, and voilà, a lovely and protective wreath for our front door.
I feel quite certain that any "dark of the year" baddies will tremble at the sight of our mighty wreath!