Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the spirit of giving and love that abounds. All the traditions and customs fascinate me. This month, I’ll be sharing stories about different Christmas traditions and customs.
Today I want to talk about the advent wreath with one caveat: I’m not a theologian or a preacher. For theology questions, I highly recommend this website, Notbyworks.org
I’ll be offering “Just the facts,” as fictional Dragnet detective Joe Friday always said – and, of course, an opinion, or two.
Yesterday, December 1, marked the beginning of advent season for this year.
Not familiar with Advent or Advent Wreaths? Let me share the facts.
The word advent comes from the Latin adventus meaning arrival or coming, particularly of something having great importance. For Christians, Advent is the spiritual preparation for Christ’s birth on Christmas.
Christians in the following denominations observe Advent:
• Anglican / Episcopalian
The observation of advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday, which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24.
Advent also happens to mark the beginning of the Christian church calendar.
The origins of advent began sometime after the 4th century as a time of preparation for Epiphany, and not in anticipation of Christmas. In the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great associated the season with the Second Coming of Christ.
By the Middle Ages, the church had extended the celebration of advent to include the coming of Christ through his birth in Bethlehem, his future coming at the end of time, and his presence among us through the promised Holy Spirit.
Modern-day church advent services include symbolic customs related to all three “advents” of Christ, depending upon the denomination.
Some people incorporate advent activities into their family holiday traditions if their church does not formally recognize a season of Advent.
Using an advent wreath can help diminish the commercialism of Christmas and constructing an advent wreath can be a fun Christmas project.
The wreath contains three purple candles, one pink candle, and one white candle set on a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity. The wreath itself symbolizes the coming of the light of Christ into the world.
In churches, the candles are lit on successive Sundays during the worship service
The Prophecy Candle is first. Many churches use blue to distinguish Advent from the observation of Lent.
Second Sunday another purple candle is lit. This time the Bethlehem candle. Third Sunday candle is the pink Shepherd candle. Fourth Sunday is the last purple candle called the Angel Candle. The White Candle or Christ Candle is lit on Christmas Eve.
Here’s another version of the candles’ symbolism:
Read more about the symbolism of the advent wreath, candles, and colors here.
YOUR TURN: Is an advent wreath part of your Christmas season?