‘…I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow.’
– Emily Brontë from Fall Leaves, Fall
Today’s image: the wreath
Judging from the above extract, Brontë was another creature welcoming of winter. She sounds content enough to see flowers die away, leaves fall, and for snow to wrap itself around a degenerated nature. With today’s quote I have cheated a little, because ‘wreath’ in this sense is used to mean a ring of something ephemeral rather than, more tangibly, an arrangement of leaves or flowers.
However, it’s also an apt poem because, as with a wreath, it reminds us that the seasons flow continuously around. Like any circle, the wreath, together with its composition of evergreens, is a representation of eternal life. And also of faith; the faith during winter that spring, new life, will return. It seems to me this is like the symbolic mandala, which holds significance in Hindu and Buddhist cultures.
And it’s another long-held tradition. Early wreaths of foliage, at least in European culture, were crowns, of course, worn by Etruscan and then by Ancient Roman and Greek rulers, emblematic of power and victory. Later they became a Christian symbol, recalling, one assumes, the crown of thorns.
This year, I made my own wreath for the front door, pictured at the top of the page, tired of pulling the bows and baubles off bought ones. More tradition– in the Christian custom, a wreath on the front door is an invitation to the spirit of Christ to enter their home. Even if you are non-practising, they give a welcome to any visitor–and due to UK rules for this season there will be a few, if a very few, visitors to our home this year.
At any rate, creating my own humble effort was very satisfying. Like many finding myself in the house these extra hours, I have become more involved than ever in domestic decorations and planning this year.
If I can digress a little, but on the subject of Christmas activity, one of my favourite seasonal ‘cosy’ scenes in literature is from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. It is narrated by servant Nellie Dean, who has set about ‘putting my cakes in the oven, and making the house and kitchen cheerful with great fires, befitting Christmas-eve,’ before she stops to look around and admire her efforts:
‘I smelt the rich scent of the heating spices; and admired the shining kitchen utensils, the polished clock, decked in holly, the silver mugs ranged on a tray ready to be filled with mulled ale for supper; and above all, the speckless purity of my particular care – the scoured and well-swept floor. I gave due inward applause to every object, and then I remembered how old Earnshaw used to come in when all was tidied, and call me a cant lass, and slip a shilling into my hand as a Christmas-box.’
A Christmas-box, as we know, is a tip, an old-fashioned term for a bonus given to employees and tradespeople – hence Boxing Day. On a final note then, for those in a position to afford it, remember to give an extra tip to those who have lost work this year, or who have had to work extra hard – be it your hairdresser, wait staff, refuse collector, and anyone else who performs a service. No matter what their faith or yours. Give them their ‘due applause’, and send the goodwill flowing around.