The Swags Are Up!

Dec 9, 2012 | 2 comments

In my memory, the Christmas welcome to our house has always been in the form of swags, not wreaths.  I’m not exactly sure who made that choice or the when or the why of it.  I suspect it had something to do with the fact that my grandfather would go into the nearby woods to get the Christmas tree and the “greens” – cedar boughs and holly and, perhaps, pine branches with cones – to decorate the house.  It stands to reason that swags would be easier to make than wreathes and so the tradition began.

Years ago, one swag was made for the front door “like normal.”  But somewhere along the way, the solid wooden door was replaced with a many-paned glass door to let in more light during our long gray winter days.  With no firm foundation on which to anchor a swag, the number leaped to three – one on either side of the door and one on the pump room door at the end of the porch (for balance).

Yesterday, while Nyel was putting our 2012 swags together, I took a look online to see where the word “swag” itself came from.  What I found, instead were many definitions of the word, the most fitting for my purpose being:  An ornamental festoon of flowers or fruit.  Swag also mean stolen property or loot; the pack or bundle containing the personal belongs of an Australian swagman, or the herbal tea in a plastic sandwich bag sold as marijuana to an unsuspecting customer.

But by far the most interesting definition/explanation came from an article called “The Old Person’s Guide to ‘Swag’” written in May 2011.  The article begins: An unfamiliar word fills the air, befuddling the olds: “swag.” But what does the slang term mean, and where does it come from? Best learn the meaning of “swag,” old person, before you are sent off to the cultural death panel.          Apparently, “swag” is (probably was by now) a substitute for the word “cool” as in anything worth doing, eating or buying is “swag.”

 Beyond that, according to an article in the New Yorker, Swag can be a noun, an adjective, a verb, and an all-purpose expression of agreement or endorsement.  One might say to a friend, “whoa, I’m loving your swag” and I’m thinking the reference isn’t to garlands.

The “Old Person’s Guide” goes on to say that, in current usage, Swag comes from hip hop.  So, my “old person” question is, what do you think the title of this blog might mean to a “young person?”  Scary.


  1. Marion

    Your porch looks very festive and pretty! Instead of a ‘swag’ this year we bought a pretty wreath from one of the little neighbor girls who was selling it for a fund raiser for the school. I put on a nice bow, hung it on our front door, and it looks very festive. Such a fun time of year with the holiday decor and everything that goes with it. We are hosting a pre-holiday dinner for some dear friends today. Have a nice Sunday in the village!

  2. Nancy

    Hmmmmm….swags. What might that word mean to me? In my more productive decorating years I made many swags and many wreaths and festooned all windowsills with branches of fir and pine and redwood. Along with the window greenery there were lights galore! Ah, what lovely memories of the week of decorating, the week of dismantlement and re-storing. Oh, did I forget that there were maybe 2 or 3 evenings to sit and enjoy the fruits of my labors? The past few years have not included even a tree unless one considers the ficus in the corner a tree. I’m not minding old age and downsizing one iota.


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