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Friday, December 1st, 2006

Time for the Hanging of the Greens

By Shelley Grieshop

Carolyn Schaller of Coldwater United Methodist Church places blue candles into a. . .

COLDWATER - Wreaths adorn doors and strands of evergreens twirl along railings and banisters as the Christmas season approaches.
But the greenery that appears this time of year has a deeper meaning than just home decor. It is linked to the Hanging of the Greens tradition.
"The Hanging of the Greens is about bringing in the Advent season," says Margaret Hunter, the chairwoman of the worship and arts committee at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in St. Marys.
The church is one of many in the local area that observe the custom of draping evergreens near windows, in the sanctuary and at the entranceways to remind the congregation of God's eternal love. Congregation members will hang their greenery on Saturday, she says.
Early Christians adopted the use of the evergreen for the celebration of Christmas because its deep hunter green color remains vibrant when all other plants die in the cold winter months. Branches were cut from evergreen trees and placed in temples where they were worshiped for maintaining life throughout the winter and bringing the hope of the return of spring.
Evergreens also were an ancient symbol of immortality, life and growth. Centuries ago people hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows - some believing the branches would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits and illness.
Different greens have special meaning: laurel and bay symbolize victory and triumph; yew and cypress stand for eternal life.
Wreaths, such as those that surround Advent candles used during the weeks leading up to Christmas, also have symbolic significance. Their endless circle teaches of the endless love of God, according to religious beliefs.
Hunter says the lighting of the Advent candle each week in church is her favorite part of the worship service during the holiday season.
"It's just such a special time for families to come up and light the candles one at a time," she says.
Marilyn Darr and several others from Coldwater United Methodist Church were busy Monday evening decorating their church according to custom, adding gold ribbons to some of the bushy evergreen swags. Darr says she also enjoys the tradition and the decorating process.
"Getting together, the fellowship, that's what makes it memorable," she says.
Each year about a dozen or so members meet first for a meal together before heading to the sanctuary to begin the decorating process, she says.
"It's a special time for us. We're a small church so we all have to work together as a team," she says.
Area churches that participate in the Hanging of the Greens tradition should have their decorating completed by Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, which also signifies the lighting of the first candle.
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