Posted by Vanessa Blanchard on 28th Aug 2015

The History of Evergreen Centerpieces

Blueberry Christmas Table Centerpieces

Finding the perfect centerpiece for your Christmas table is no easy task, nor is it a new one. The tradition of dressing up your table to impress your family and friends is an old one that dates back to some of our earliest civilizations.  People have been decorating their tables for centuries to display wealth, power, prosperity and to ensure good fortune for the loved ones. But how did this tradition of tables adorned with evergreen come to be?

To find the answer, we must examine dinner tables of old. For thousands of years, celebrations have revolved around a few crucial elements, the feast, the reason behind the feast, and the decor. Decorations were often symbolic in nature. The wreath, a timeless staple that serves as inspiration for many subsequent decoration trends, was seen in ancient Greek and Roman cultures as a show of status. The use of wreaths can be traced to times beyond written history, and many modern evergreen centerpieces today are variations on this timeless staple, but table decor itself is likely just as old.

Ancient Roman and Greek cultures utilized decorative bowls and vases to display laurels, branches and plant life on tables in high ranking houses. Medieval feasts contained fewer decorative elements. Instead tables were adorned with edible sculptures made of marzipan, fruit being a popular form for towering piles of bite-sized table art.


Photo: Marzipan Fruits

During the 18th and 19th centuries, table decor began to become more ornate while once again incorporating foliage. The flowers and branches chosen held special symbolic meaning and were often matched to specific occasions. For examples, roses and baby’s breath at weddings represented love, respect, happiness and purity for the bride. Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe at Christmas symbolized faithfulness, domestic bliss and affection.

Holly Bush

Photo: Holly

Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe are important holiday decorations for another important reason: they are evergreens. Evergreens hold a special place in the heart of Christian tradition because of its historical associations with hardship and endurance. Evergreens represent eternal life, which Christians believe was promised to humanity through the birth of Jesus Christ.  Because they grow in winter when all other plants remain dormant, evergreen plants are associated with tenacity as well and as such are incorporated into Christian decor to honor the strength Jesus needed to endure persecution in order to deliver on that promise.

So when the holidays come and you’re ready to drape your tables, doors and walls with evergreen boughs, know that your decorations are far more than fragrant bits of nature. Christmas table centerpieces made with real evergreens surpass trends and fashion. They represent thousands of years of history and perseverance for humanity.