That wreath you hang on your door looks nice, but the meaning behind it is what this time of year is all about.

Evergreens arranged in a circle represent everlasting life. We adorn wreaths with all kinds of seasonal baubles – toys, fruit, holly, pinecones and more – but the wreath itself is the most symbolic. Christians also light the candles of Advent Wreaths during the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas. The colored candles represent the four virtues that Jesus brings us: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.

Although decorating trees started out as a pagan tradition to celebrate the winter solstice, the custom was adopted by German Christians in the 16th Century to celebrate Christmas and later popularized by Queen Victoria in the 19th Century. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until 1982 that a Christmas tree was introduced to the Vatican by Pope John Paul II. The move was criticized by some at the time as being inappropriate, but the tree is now central to papal celebrations. The pope viewed the Christmas tree as a symbol of Christ.

“This very ancient custom,” he said, “exalts the value of life, as in winter what is evergreen becomes a sign of undying life, and it reminds Christians of the ‘tree of life’ of Genesis 2:9, an image of Christ, the supreme gift of God to humanity.”

As we gather with our families around our Christmas trees this season, and our friends and neighbors are welcomed by the wreaths on our doors, let’s remind ourselves of the deep meanings behind them. From all of us at the Juniper Park Civic Association, have a wonderful Christmas, and may 2019 be the happiest of years.