Wreaths Across America written by Lishmarie Hunter
The holidays bring out many traditions and sometimes we do not know where these traditions come from. We see trees and wreaths throughout the season… But where and when did these traditions start? Specifically, what is the symbolism of the ‘Christmas Wreath’?
It is believed that advent wreaths may have been first used by Lutherans in Germany in the 16th century. The very first record of this custom, was in 1833. It was done by a Lutheran clergyman who lit a candle in a wreath every Sunday. He then told the story of the nativity. This custom spread to homes and churches throughout time and now also continues by various organizations.
The organization best known for this tradition is aptly named Wreaths Across America (WAA). They began their work in 2007, with the Worcester family, along with the support of veteran organizations, groups, and individuals who had helped with the original annual veterans wreath ceremony in Arlington. They later formed the official WAA non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, in order to continue and expand their efforts, and to support others.
The annual trip to Arlington, along with the groups of volunteers eager to participate in Worcester’s simple wreath-laying event, continued to grow each year until it became clear that the desire to remember and honor our country’s fallen heroes was bigger than imagined.
The mission of Wreaths Across America was and is: Remember. Honor. Teach.
After the first year, over 300 locations held wreaths-laying ceremonies in every state, including Puerto Rico and 24 overseas locations. More than 100,00 wreaths were place on graves by over 60,000 volunteers. December 13, 2008 was voted by U.S. Congress as Wreaths Across America Day.
In 2014, the goal of placing 226,525 wreaths on every veteran’s grave markers was met with the assistance of sponsors and volunteers. In 2018, by invitation of the American Battle Monuments Commission, a wreath ceremony was held to honor the nearly 10,000 service members buried at the Normandy American Cemetery in France.
In 2022, WAA and volunteers placed approx. 2.7 million wreaths on veteran headstones at 3,702 locations. This was accomplished with the support of more than 5,000 groups and corporations, and donations from transportation industries.
This tradition held annually on the second or third Saturday each December. The WAA journey from Harrington, Maine to Arlington National Cemetery is known as “the world’s largest veteran’s parade.”
You can read the rest of our VOM Winter 2023 Magazine Edition Here: https://www.veteransoutreachministries.org/vom-magazine/