A bare green wreath over a white background.

Image: Shutterstock

This is the 33rd year of the Parks Department’s Wreath Interpretations Exhibit at the Arsenal in Central Park, and it’s as festive an event as ever.

The wreaths you find here are not evergreen and holly. Not even the fake kind. The most “traditional” one of the 48 on display is the one made of marshland foliage from the Horticultural Department of a local park alliance, and it features fall leaves, berries, dried grasses and sedge. Not a crimson ribbon to be seen.

Other wreathes on display are made of broken blinds, surge protectors, lost gloves, bottle caps, and cast iron. There is even one made of 296 tidily arranged wrapped (expired) condoms, donated by the Department of Health. Another is a whimsical arrangement of hundreds of pure white Q-tips.

Jennifer Lantzas, director of public art at the Arsenal Gallery Program, says that contributions get “quirkier and quirkier” every year.

Some wreaths, like Leonora Retsas’s Q-tips, are purely whimsical. Others, like the condom wreath, are there to draw attention to a need. Others tackle controversial topics. And every one aims to make the viewer look at a simple holiday symbol in a new way.

For a look at entries from previous years, Ghosts of Wreaths Past on the NYC Parks YouTube Channel is a quick dose of fun. The current crop of entries will be on view at the Arsenal Gallery on the third floor of the Parks Department HQ in Central Park until January 7 2016. Many are for sale, with proceeds to benefit NYC Parks’ programs. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Admission is always free.