What is the Hanging of the Greens?

Children hang wreaths on the sanctuary door at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., during the church's annual Hanging of the Greens service. Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.
Children hang wreaths on the sanctuary door at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., during the church's annual Hanging of the Greens service. Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.

"Hanging of the Greens" refers to the practice of adding evergreen plants (live or artificial) to the congregation's worship space.

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Different Christian communities "hang the greens" at different times. The oldest historic practice, begun in Europe, is to hang the greens after the conclusion of worship on Advent 4 as a means to prepare for Christmas Eve and Christmas Season. Live greens are typically used when hung just prior to Christmas since they may easily last throughout the final days of Advent and the 13 days of Christmas Season (sundown December 24 through sundown January 6) with proper care. When used at Christmas, evergreens are often understood as a symbol of the eternal coming to dwell among us as Word made flesh. They may also be described as a sign of life and growth overcoming and flourishing in the midst of the dead of winter, and so of the resurrection of Christ. Over time, other attributes were given to specific evergreens, as we hear in the carol The Holly and the Ivy.

Others may hang the greens closer to or even just before the beginning of Advent for use throughout Advent and Christmas Season. When hung for Advent, the symbolism of evergreens points to the unending life of the age to come when Christ returns, the dead are raised, and the righteous enter life in the new creation. 

Some congregations "hang the greens" as an after-worship work project and fellowship event. Others make it into a more formal service.  


This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.