Workshop at Page Museum teaches tradition of wreath making

Patricia Henner instructs a group of people on the proper way to create a decorative wreath made of items common to most peoples yard at the Page Farm and Home Museum on the campus of the University of Maine on Saturday, November 27, 2010. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)
Patricia Henner instructs a group of people on the proper way to create a decorative wreath made of items common to most peoples yard at the Page Farm and Home Museum on the campus of the University of Maine on Saturday, November 27, 2010. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)
Posted Nov. 27, 2010, at 4:33 p.m.
Linda Hoar of Guilford sits on the floor of the Page Farm and Home Museum on Saturday, November 27, 2010 as she makes a decorative wreath of balsam during a wreath making workshop. Hoar who grew up in Virginia says she used to make wreaths as a child from items found in her backyard. This is her first workshop making a wreath with guidance. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)
Linda Hoar of Guilford sits on the floor of the Page Farm and Home Museum on Saturday, November 27, 2010 as she makes a decorative wreath of balsam during a wreath making workshop. Hoar who grew up in Virginia says she used to make wreaths as a child from items found in her backyard. This is her first workshop making a wreath with guidance. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)

ORONO, Maine — Kim Landry had tried making a Christmas wreath on her own without help or advice from an experienced wreath maker.

When she was finished, the Bangor resident knew her wreath didn’t look right, but she wasn’t sure what she had done wrong.

But on Saturday, Landry learned how to make a nearly perfect wreath at a wreath-making workshop at the Page Farm and Home Museum at the University of Maine

“I tried using these big, long things and weaving them around the metal ring,” she said, waving a sprig of balsam fir more than a foot long. “I did not break off the little branches and use those. This is working much better.”

Patricia Henner, director of the museum, told the participants at one of two workshops Saturday to break off the smaller branches so that the sprigs they attached to their metal rings were between 6 and 8 inches long. Her students then stacked the sprigs on top of one another and used a thin wire to attach the balsam fir pieces to the ring.

Henner has been teaching the wreath-making workshop at the museum for more than a decade. She learned to make wreaths many years ago from her sister, who had a seasonal wreath-making business in Dover-Foxcroft.

“Wreath-making has a long tradition in Maine,” Henner said. “It’s an important part of the state’s economy. Once you learn how to do it, you can make one every year for yourself and more for family and friends. People can purchase wreaths already made, but this workshop shows them what goes into making a wreath.”

Henner said the workshop and the traditional Holiday Shoppe next weekend, featuring handmade items and food, fit well with the museum’s mission.

“The Page Farm and Home Museum is here to showcase rural life in Maine and embrace those traditions,” she said.

The origin of the Christmas wreath dates back to the ancient Persian empire, according to www.worldofchristmas.net. Then, wreaths were much smaller and called diadems.

About 776 B.C. the Greeks began placing wreaths made of laurel on the heads of athletes returning from the Olympic Games. The Romans continued the tradition, but the wearing of a laurel wreath was reserved for political leaders, such as Julius Caesar. It is believed to be the forerunner of the crown worn by European kings and queens.

In other times and places, memorial wreaths were hung on doors after a death in a household, according to a story previously published in the Bangor Daily News.

The origins of evergreen wreaths can be traced to the folk practices of the pre-Christian Germanic people who gathered the boughs and held fire ceremonies during the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. By making wreaths in circular shapes using evergreens that continued to survive when all other plants had died, these people aligned the intentions of their lives with the processes occurring in nature, Debra Ann Dadd says on her “Green Living” blog.

History and symbolism, however, didn’t seem to be on the minds of the women making their first Christmas wreaths Saturday at the museum.

“This is so much fun,” Linda Hoar of Guilford said. “And it smells wonderful.”

Wreath-making workshops will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Page Farm and Home Museum at the University of Maine. The cost is $15 for materials. The Holiday Shoppe will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4. For information, call 581-4100.

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