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Holiday History Lesson

When it comes to holiday decor, can you mix wreaths and menorahs?

Rachael Abrams headshot
Mercury glass menorah at Pottery Barn
A menorah is a candelabrum used in celebration of Hanukkah. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn
Feather wreath at West Elm
The Greeks wore wreaths around their heads after a victorious oration.  Photo courtesy of West Elm
Events-Mistletoe Madness-Dec 09
Mistletoe became a romantic symbol in 16th century England. 

Confession: I have a mistletoe and a wreath — and I love Christmas trees — but I celebrate Hanukkah. Like millions of other non-Christians, my fondness for festivity caused me to become a victim of consumerism. 

Weeks before December 25, stores begin to seduce shoppers with green garlands, sparkly wreaths, trees, and shiny and colorful ornaments. It is a booming business, and people who have no use for these holiday items still get sucked in. 

 Like millions of other non-Christians, my fondness for festivity caused me to become a victim of consumerism.

We’ve been convinced that these decorative pieces are merely festive ornaments. Certainly there’s no harm in that — other than putting a dent in your pocketbook — but after doing some digging, I decided to decorate with 10 more shiny menorahs this year. 

Here is what I learned in my research:

The tree is actually a religious symbol. It was idolized in ancient times as it represented healing, life and rebirth — especially during the winter months, when all greenery was dead. The tree moved through time as devout Christian Germans brought trees into their homes.

Supposedly, Martin Luther was responsible for the birth of Christmas lights, because he admired the way the moonlight made the trees sparkle, so he went home and wired his tree branches for candles. When the Germans settled in America, the tradition carried on. Who knew it would become so mainstream?

Wreaths — typically made of olive branches —adorned the heads of victorious Greeks after epic orations. Young lovers also hung a ring of branches around their door as a symbol of their affection. The circle in many religions represents eternity and unity — hence circular wedding rings.

Although the seeds of a mistletoe are actually toxic to humans, it's a romantic symbol during the holidays. Supposedly the tradition to kiss under the mistletoe dates back to 16th century England. 

I don't have a tree, but even though it stares right at my mezuzah — that serves as a constant reminder of my religion on my door post— you can certainly bet that my wreath is hanging proudly on my front door. Why? Because it's pretty.

Then again, so is my menorah. 

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