Each year, however, brings more and more inventive versions of wreaths.
Regional variations have become common, often in unexpected materials: driftwood wreaths with shells and starfish, for example, or fiery circles of Southeastern chili peppers.
Today's wreath might be a square, star or rectangle. Traditional holiday colours might cede ground to vibrant limes, deep indigo, pale pink or soft cream.
Retailers are offering more modern choices than ever. Alternatively, let your inner elf loose and craft your own holiday creation.
Crate & Barrel has a pretty wreath made of silver-painted magnolia leaves that would work in both traditional and contemporary homes. Another is made of rolled paper and twigs to create a swirl of texture that taps the rustic trend. (www.crateandbarrel.com )
White felt leaves or balls make elegant, monochromatic winter wreaths at West Elm. (www.westelm.com )
At One King's Lane, find a reindeer moss wreath in festive and chic chartreuse. (www.onekingslane.com )
If you'd like to try your hand at wreath design, crafts stores have wire, foam and wood bases. Heat up the glue gun and let your imagination go.
You might find inspiration in designer Stephanie Hung, known for creative holiday craft ideas in Style at Home magazine. She's found some unexpected uses for common household items this season. Red plastic spoons, striped paper straws, patterned clothespins and even white Styrofoam cups can be used to make wreaths that are as much sculptural art as décor. An ornate ceiling medallion is given a coat of bright green paint. Clothespins are covered in washi tape and arranged in rows in a wreath frame. Instructions are in the magazine's November issue. (www.styleathome.com )
Battery-operated, miniature LED fairy lights can be threaded through a wire wreath frame to be hung anywhere or put on a mantle. Look for warm white lights on silvery or copper wire, or go with all crimson or midnight blue. (www.save-on-crafts.com )
If you can get your hands on a bucketful of acorns, glue them in rows on a wreath form. You can leave them in their natural caramel hue and tie on a plaid or gingham flannel bow, or consider spray-painting the whole thing in a favouritecolour and add a co-ordinating tie. The 3-D symmetry of the rows looks great no matter what you do.
Another option: Wrap a wreath frame in bold black and white ribbon. Or swathe it in tufts of navy tulle and tie with a red silk ribbon. Cover the frame with white paper doilies, adding fairy lights for white winter magic.
No matter what your wreath's made of, the message is one of welcome, comfort and holiday cheer.