Even before Thanksgiving this year, wreaths were popping up all over the Capital Region, in anticipation of the holidays. Today, there is more variety in wreaths than ever before as new products come on the market.
The origin of the wreath is uncertain. Some believe that it hails back to the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Others think it has to do with the early Christians and Advent wreaths. Regardless of how it began, the wreath remains a timeless symbol of welcome, especially during the holiday season.
Today, there are endless choices available for holiday wreaths — pre-made or DIY, decorated or undecorated, lit or unlit and various combinations of these choices. Fresh wreaths are basically crafted by attaching boughs to a metal ring, using a clamp machine or floral wire.
“Most wreaths in the Northeast are made from balsam or Frasier fir," said Chip Ellms of Ellms Family Farm in Charlton. People also use the douglas fir or the dark green Korean fir for specialty wreaths.
“Korean firs are not a good Christmas tree, but great trees for wreaths,” he said.
One big benefit of having a fresh wreath is the pine smell that signals the holiday season. Most of the fresh wreaths that Hewitt’s sells are made from Frasier firs, which Hewitt’s Christmas buyer, Ryan Cullinan, says smell the best.
The store also sells some mixed pine wreaths as well. For those who want a wreath they can use year after year, there are artificial wreaths made from PVC material or polyethylene. The latter is a newer material that looks more like the real thing.
Cullinan said that the trend towards polyethylene wreaths is growing as more people want the look and feel of a real pine needle. Artificial wreaths come with plain green or flocked needles. The most common size for a wreath is 24 inches, but they come in all different sizes. People usually choose a 24- or 30-inch wreath for the front door, Cullinan said, or sometimes a 36-inch wreath, but those will go all the way to the edge of the door.
For the front of the house, there are even 72-inch wreaths available. Ellms said that some people will purchase small, undecorated wreaths for hanging in each window of their homes.
If you’re not the DIY type or don’t have the time, there are plenty of wreaths that come already decorated and ready to be hung. Stores are selling everything from traditional, natural, woodsy-looking decorations to wreaths decorated with bright, shiny bulbs and lots of glitz and everything in between. A plain wreath, whether real or artificial, is like a blank canvas, ready to be customized to suit its owner’s tastes.
Hewitt’s dedicates a whole space called its “theme room” to items that people can use if they want to decorate a wreath themselves. Cullinan travels to the Netherlands and China scouting out the latest in holiday decorations. He suggests using shatterproof decorations for outside wreaths.
While there is a staggering amount of decorations available, the most popular choice is a traditional look. “The natural look with berries and pinecones seems to be growing in popularity,” Cullinan said.
He advises people to look for decorations that are waterproof if their wreaths are going to be hung outside. While the natural look is in, people might choose wreaths decorated with glitter-tipped pinecones to add some sparkle. The variety of bows available for decorating is growing.
While the traditional red or for a more elegant look, burgundy, bow is still the most popular choice, now there are even bows with battery operated lights in a variety of colors and patterns.
Ellms Family Farms puts some unusual ribbons on some of its wreaths, but Ellms said that the most popular wreath his farm sells is a still a traditional wreath with a Santa Claus red bow.
A second popular choice is wreath with American flags. Another decision to make when purchasing a wreath is whether or not to have it lit. Hewitt’s offers wreaths with indoor/outdoor LED lights with a battery pack and a built-in timer set to be on for 8 hours and off for 16. Being LED lights, a battery pack will last a whole season.
This choice is growing in popularity, and the light choices come in white or colored. The store also sells lit wreaths that plug in to an outlet. Cullinan advises when purchasing a lit wreath, to make sure that there is at least a 50-count of lights in a 24-inch wreath. DIY wreaths are not difficult to make. There are metal wreath-making frames and floral wire for securing branches to the frame.
If requested, Hewitt’s will reserve the pine boughs it trims from a Christmas tree purchase for the customer to craft a wreath. A 12- to 14-inch frame will yield a 24-inch wreath. There are also a few different options for hanging wreaths. There are brass wreath hangers that go over the top of door.
Hewitt’s most popular seller is a clear plastic adjustable hanger that goes over the top of the door. There are also suction cup hangers, and magnetic hangers that will work on a metal door or on single-paned windows.
Some variations of the wreath are teardrop-shaped swags made from fir branches as well as kissing balls, which have become a popular item. Ellms Family Farms offers some wreaths shaped like a candy cane, but Ellms said that the normal, round wreath remains the most popular choice.