In Roman times, evergreens were a symbol of fertility, peace and joy.
Christians adapted the practice of hanging the greens -- pine, holly, ivy and fir branches -- in their homes and worship spaces to represent everlasting life through Jesus’ birth.
Lorraine Sutton prepared the sanctuary space at United Advent Christian Church in Wilmington for the church’s annual Hanging of the Greens service last Sunday. The event at many churches is a contemplative and symbolic time setting the stage for the four Sundays before Christmas.
Purple or rose candles in a circular Advent wreath are lit each week representing the expectation of the messiah and God’s continuous power. A tall Chrismon tree overflows with gold and white ancient Christian symbols - fish, crosses, stars and crowns - for purity and majesty.
Though Sutton said she knows many of the symbols in the service began in pagan times, she says she’s glad Christians converted them for their use today.
Amanda Green is the editor and community manager of Wilmington FAVS: Faith and Values.