What Is the Hanging of the Greens Celebration?


Quick Answer

The Hanging of the Greens is a traditional Christian service that occurs on the first Sunday in Advent. The service involves decorating the church with evergreen plants that symbolize eternal life.

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Full Answer

The service occurs on the first Sunday in Advent, the four-week period leading up to Christmas Day. It includes songs and prayers, along with the installation of the greenery.

The Hanging of the Greens originated in ancient pagan rituals celebrating the winter solstice, which occurs around December 21. In ancient Rome, people celebrated a winter festival called Saturnalia. During the festivities, Romans exchanged gifts, hung wreaths and lit candles. Aspects of these ancient pagan customs appear in the Christian Hanging of the Greens celebration, along with other Christmas traditions.

According to the Bible, Jesus was forced to wear a crown of thorns before his crucifixion. Along with other assorted evergreen plants, holly frequently appears in the wreaths and boughs used in Hanging of the Greens ceremonies, as the prickly leaves and berries represent the crown and the blood it drew. Red poinsettia flowers are believed to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem and also form an essential feature of Christmas church displays. Ivy symbolizes the Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection.

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