Wreaths as a symbol of commemoration in Australia

 

Wreaths are flowers and leaves woven into a circle. They are traditionally laid on graves and memorials in memory of the dead. We often lay 'Anzac wreaths' at war memorials as a way to remember those who have lost their lives serving Australia in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

History of its symbolism

In ancient times, the Romans used a wreath of laurel leaves to symbolise bravery, strength and triumph. Its meaning can be traced back to Greek mythology.

Since the reign of Queen Victoria in the 1800s, wreaths of flowers have been laid on graves in the United Kingdom and other countries of the British Empire. Woven into a circle, they represent life and resurrection.

Since World War I, wreaths have been laid at memorials to remember those Australians who died in service during wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

A woman holds a wreath and looks at a wall with names.

A mourner lays a wreath at the Menin Gate, circa 1930. This is an Australian section of the stone panels where more than 6195 men of the AIF who lost their lives in Belgium in World War I and have ‘no known grave’ are listed. Beneath her wreath is the name ‘Fraser TH’. Sergeant Thomas Fraser, 2nd Pioneer Battalion AIF, was killed by a shell on the evening of 15 September 1917 whilst working on one of the plank roads leading off the Menin Road towards Westhoek Ridge. Buried initially beneath a wooden cross, his grave was subsequently lost, and Fraser’s remains lie to this day … in Flander’s fields. (Foto Daniel, collection of the Stedelijke Musea, Ieper)

On Anzac Day (25 April), we often call them 'Anzac wreaths'. However, they can also be referred to as 'remembrance wreaths'.

What it means to us today

An Anzac wreath is usually shaped like a teardrop, called a 'chaplet'. This shape signifies the tears that we shed in grief. You can also use a simpler circular shape.

The poppy flower, commonly associated with Remembrance Day (11 November), has become a popular addition to wreaths on Anzac Day.

In a professionally made remembrance wreath, florists often use:

  • laurel - for glory and victory
  • rosemary - for remembrance
  • the colour purple - for mourning, spirituality and ceremony
  • red poppies - for the sacrifice of shed blood (usually one poppy for each of the armed services: navy, army, air force)
A large stone memorial
A memorial obelisk in South Perth dedicated to all those who served Australia in wars and conflicts, Remembrance Day 2019

Engage more with this topic

Watch our 1-minute video, which supports learning in the Here They Come big book for primary school students.

This video is part of a series of videos developed for the Here they come—A day to remember publication. It focuses on wreaths.

At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Canberra, visiting schools can book a free School Wreath Laying Ceremony.

Make a remembrance wreath

Follow these instructions to make a wreath for Anzac Day or Remembrance Day.

You'll need:

  • wreath-shaped polystyrene (chaplet or ring)
  • leaves of laurel, camellia or 'Little Gem' magnolia (or paper leaves)
  • green wreath wrap or ribbon
  • purple ribbon
  • artificial red poppies
  • sprigs of rosemary
  • glue
  • cardboard
  • black pen

What to do:

  1. Cover the base shape with wreath wrap or ribbon and secure it with glue.
  2. Add the leaves in layers, starting from the top, with the pointy ends of the leaves pointing upwards (all in the same direction).
  3. Add the three poppies in a small cluster at the bottom of the wreath.
  4. Add the sprig of rosemary.
  5. Place the purple ribbon on the wreath. It should start high on the left side of the wreath and finish low on the right side. This symbolises the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.
  6. Add a small card with the words 'We will remember them' or 'Lest we forget'.

Other ideas:

  • Gather flowers that are native to your local region to decorate the wreath.
  • For something a little different, make a rosemary wreath with branches of rosemary and gum nuts.
  • Make a hand wreath of green cardboard hands traced from the members of your class or family.

Pinterest has wealth of art and craft ideas to help you make a wreath at home or in the classroom.


Last updated: 9 November 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), Wreaths as a symbol of commemoration in Australia, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 4 December 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/commemoration/symbols-commemoration/wreaths-symbol-commemoration-australia
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