Last week the Historic Deerfield Annual Christmas Wreath Workshop was held at the Deerfield Community Center. The room was alive with energy, Christmas carols and cookies. The air was filled with the scent of evergreen trees. Piles of holly berries, kumquats, teasels, pine cones were everywhere.
For years volunteers of every age have descended on the Community Center to make merry and create beautiful Christmas wreaths.
Tinka Lunt told me that twenty years ago Scott Creelman, a member of the Historic Deerfield Board of Trustees, came home from a meeting in frustration. He told his wife they should be doing something special for Christmas, but he didn’t know what. His wife, Joanna, and Tinka Lunt quickly put their heads together and invented the idea of making wreaths for some of the historic houses. Since then an annual workshop is held so everyone can work together.
Lunt told me it was Joanna’s idea, and together they refined the plan. “What made it work was everything had to be natural. After all, Christmas wasn’t a big thing in the 18th century. They certainly didn’t have tinsel or shiny balls or anything like that. What they did have was plant material, shells and other things. Joanna and I decided everything had to be natural.
“For the workshop we provide wire frames and greenery to share. We can teach people how to make the wreaths if they are novices. We are happy when people bring their own tools, but we also have clippers, wire, florist sticks, glue and glue guns.
“Some people bring their own decorations like lady apples, guinea hen feathers, corn husks and rose hips. We have ornaments from past years as well, so there are always plenty of embellishments to use.
“Experienced volunteers show others how to gather a bunch of greens the size of their hand and wire it to the frame and keep doing that until the wreath is made. Some people liked to add the embellishments as they attach the greenery, but others add the embellishments afterwards. Either way it works. And there is never ever an ugly wreath.”
There is a special satisfaction for the volunteers. When they finish each wreath gets a label with their name and a list of all the greens and embellishments they have added.
There have been changes in the workshop over the years. Originally they got trees from Nims Tree Farm. The trees were delivered and then volunteers had to cut off the branches themselves as they were needed. When the Nims Farm closed they turned to Kingsbury’s Christmas Trees. They do not bring trees over; their delivery is of all-ready- cut branches from different evergreens including balsam fir, Scotch pine, white spruce, Douglas fir and many others.
The number of volunteers has grown, as has the number of wreaths made. In 2017 the 43 volunteers made 59 wreaths that went on 51 buildings. This year Lunt expects that there may be 60 buildings, including the Fire House, the Indian House and the Post Office that get a wreath. Some of the houses have double doors. Lunt said wreaths for the double doors were particularly difficult to make because they have to match in size. Sarah Hollister of Colrain, a descendant of the Sheldon family, is often assigned those double doors because she is especially skilled.
Not all of the volunteers are experts. Children are an important part of the festivities and labor. Children in the first, second and third grades get lots of help making simple projects. By the time they get into the fourth, fifth and sixth grades they can take on their own projects Lunt said.
A crew of Girl Scouts comes every year. Girl Scout leader Katie Josephs has been bringing her Scouts ever since 2013. That means some of them will age out this year. But a second group started coming to the workshop in 2017; they are in the 8th grade this year. The Scouts work in teams set up by the leaders.
The wreaths are now all in place and this year the Guide to the Wreaths of Deerfield will be a little different. The back page of the Guide will include a map of all the houses and buildings that will be given a wreath. This will make it easier for all the visitors to know they have seen all the wreaths, or at least all the wreaths on their favorite houses.
My own Christmas wreath, made at the Chapley Nursery in Deerfield with members of the Greenfield Garden Club a few weeks ago, is definitely not as lush and gorgeous as Deerfield’s wreaths. Even so I think my small wreath is very pretty. I want you to know that the only adornments are red and gold winterberries from my own garden. When I stand back to admire my own wreath I have to agree with Lunt when she says there is never an ugly wreath.
For a copy of the Deerfield Wreath Walk Guide click here
Between the Rows December 7, 2019