Wreaths, holly, tinsel; such things are expected when it comes to Christmas decorations. They can be found around street lamps, hung on doors, resting on windowsills, and adorning mantles and shelves. Many shops sell them, from artificial ones with gaudy colors, to fresh and aromatic greenery. It seems to have been an integral part of the Christmas décor for many years.

The word garland comes from a European word meaning 'to braid.' Nearly anything can be used as a garland. The most popular Christmas garlands are made from boughs of evergreen leaves, although popcorn, cranberries, and later artificial tinsel and other streamers became fashionable.

Traditionally, the evergreen boughs that were brought into the home represent eternal life. Some thought that by bringing in the greenery, they could prevent evil spirits or illness from entering the home during the months when daylight was scarce, and cold weather abundant. Cedar, pine, and spruce were and still are popular choices.

To the ancients, pine trees symbolized long life, and fertility. It is hardly surprising that this was something that people would want to bring into their home. Bringing in pine boughs for decoration through the winter invited the spirits of the tree to come bless the house: longevity for the family members and fertility for the crops planned for the warmer weather. The pine cone is an established symbol of fertility. Even today, the aroma of pine permeating through the stale air of a room can seem to cleanse and freshen it, while pine oil is used as a natural antiseptic.

The cedar tree also is known for its aroma, and throughout many cultures it is the cedar tree which guarded against evil, and is believed to be able to draw luck and money to a home in which it is placed. As well as having a delightful scent, the oils from the cedar help to repel insects, which may have wandered into the home looking for a warm and dry spot. Cedar, and its sister tree, the juniper, still make welcome additions to holiday garlands.

Spruce is a popular choice for both Christmas trees and other decorations. It grows fast and is easily sustainable. The scent of spruce compliments that of pine and cedar very well. This tree was held in reverence as a symbol of renewal. It is appropriate that it was used at the time of year when the light was celebrated to be returning to the lands once more.

Today artificial representations of these boughs can be bought in many shops, from the expensive and the elite boutiques, to the chains of department stores. One advantage of man-made garlands is that they do not take a toll on the living trees. Another is that they can be used from one year to the next, provided that they are stored correctly. The same stores that sell them often sell proper storage containers to increase the storage life of wreaths and other ornaments. Still, there is something to be said about having the living bough, and the dryads that dwell therein, in the home for the holiday season.

Artificial garlands are not limited just to evergreens. Many other types are now being manufactured. Small shiny balls connected together like beads are popular and can be found in a variety of sizes and colors. Metallic paper streamers open to stretch from one corner of the home to the next, hanging from the ceilings, or curling around banisters and other posts. There are many different ways in which garlands can be used, and they do not have to be store bought or expensive.

Modern garlands are not always in swag form. Some of them are branches that are laid in place, while others take the established shape of a wreath. It is possible to even decorate the garland to make it more festive, by adding tinsel, dried or silk flowers, or twinkle lights.

Garlands have been popular seasonal decorations throughout history. If current holiday fashions are anything by which to judge, it seems the will continue to grow and evolve with the ever changing demands of the consumer. Whether or not we remember the reason why they were originally brought into the house, it does look like holiday garlands are here to stay.


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