Wreath-making workshops
Barbara Ellis and U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-5) made wreaths at Great Mountain Forest on Dec. 2. 
Photo by Jennifer Almquist

Wreath-making workshops

Woodsmoke curling above the small, weathered barn and, within the faded green doors, the smell of fresh-cut pines and cider warming on the woodstove made a perfect setting for the annual wreath-making workshops at Great Mountain Forest (GMF) in Falls Village. 

For decades, folks have enjoyed creating their seasonal masterpieces using evergreens, berries, and pine cones gathered from the woods nearby.

On Saturday, Dec. 2, the first pair of workshops took place at the Mountain House Barn on Canaan Mountain Road under the expert guidance of GMF staff:  director of programs and operations Matt Gallagher and office manager Vicki Muni Nelson. [The second set of workshops took place Saturday, Dec. 9.] 

Participants in the wreath-making ranged from two women who learned about the workshops from a friend they met at Yellowstone to a local family with two young daughters, and to everyone’s delight, U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-5) and Barbara Ellis, her friend and campaign manager at Friends of Jahana Hayes, arrived ready to join the fun. 

Gallagher welcomed the 20 or so wreath makers and explained the names and origins of the various pine branches lying on the rough floor in great piles. A blaze of red winterberries in a large bucket stood next to baskets filled with pine cones gathered from various types of conifers that grow in the GMF. There were large bows of various ribbons: red, shiny gold, brocades, patterns of vintage trucks, burgundy velvet, and even some reindeer images. The staff had made educational signs with the specific names of the conifers and cones, listed with their Latin names.

Muni Nelson demonstrated the methods of wreath making, which involved metal rings, spools of green garland wire, wire cutters, hot glue guns for adhering the cones, and wired stakes for the bows. A patient teacher, Muni Nelson worked with each maker during the session. A father and mother said they were making some good family memories. After some guidance, the two girls set right to work making their own wreaths that they held up proudly at the end. 

Hayes said she was happy to spend time with her friend and, yes, have some personal time, which is in short supply. After another difficult vote in Congress the day before, Hayes felt respite in the barn working with her hands. She laughed as she twisted her greens with wire and created a festive bow: “You must know that I am very competitive, even with crafts!” Later, she wrote on her social media page: “I have found another CT-05 gem! Had a fabulous afternoon at Great Mountain Forest holiday wreath making workshop. Craft, laughs, and hot apple cider-a great way to get into the holiday spirit!” 

Norfolk artist Bevin Ramsey came with his petite mother, Maureen, who had traveled from Ottawa to spend time with her family and celebrate a granddaughter’s birthday. The joy between them was contagious. 

Each worktable was a flurry of activity. Ellen Walsh of Winchester Center showed off her steel-toed work boots as she tackled her huge wreath. 

Journalist Avice Meehan chatted with Hayes, both having recently attended former Gov. Weicker’s memorial service. Meehan had been his press secretary. Susannah Wood from Norfolk worked solo, while Norfolk tax collector Sarah Bruso shared her table with Martha Mullins. 

According to The New York Times in a Dec. 25, 1988,  article: “Ancient Pagan people, endowing trees with spirit, sheltered the branches of life-preserving evergreens through the frozen winter. Early Romans gave gifts of green branches at New Year’s, bestowing the wish for health and vigor upon family and friends. The evergreen wreath its circular shape an emblem of perfection, unity, and the enduring sun-later became a symbol for Christ’s suffering. Evergreens embody eternal life. . . today’s wreaths communicate a sense of joy and a desire for peace.”

As they joined in spirit with an ancient, symbolic and traditional craft, the Norfolk makers proudly hung their wreaths on the gray barn walls for the group to admire. One by one, the jolly revelers walked away through the surrounding meadow bearing their festive wreaths home to grace their doors and windows.

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