Advent Wreath

What is an Advent Wreath?

The Advent Wreath is a popular Advent tradition for families. The origin of this custom dates back to pre-Christian Germany and Scandinavia with a pagan ritual celebrating the return of the sun after the winter solstice. (The Advent season on the Liturgical Calendar dates back to the late 4th Century.) There are numerous and varied explanations of the original symbolism associated with the physical makeup of the wreath, but the most likely is that it represented the cycle of the year and the life that survived through the harsh winter months...after the peak of the winter and as the daylight increased, candles were lit in thanks to the sun god.

Today, the pagan ritual has been replaced with a Christian one, representing the coming of Jesus the Christ. Most Advent Wreaths use three purple candles and one rose colored candle. Not surprising, the symbolic meanings of the Wreath, the foliage, the candles and their colors have as many, if not more, are even more varied than with the origin pagan ritual. Here's just one of the more common symbolic representations.

Symbolic Meaning For The Candle Colors

Four Candles. Four candles are used to mark the four weeks of Advent. At the start (on a Saturday) of each week of Advent, a new candle is lit, marking the time as we come closer to the birth of our Lord Jesus, the Light of the World.

  • Purple Candles. The color purple or violet is used to mark the Liturgical season of Advent (and Lent), signifying anticipation, purification and penance.
  • Rose Candle. The Third Sunday of Advent is called "Gaudete Sunday". It's name comes from the Latin Gaudete in Domino semper which roughly translates "rejoice in the Lord always." These were the opening of the Antiphon the Latin Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent. As an option, the celebrant of the Mass could wear rose-colored vestments, an unusual color especially during Advent, to symbolize joy. In the Advent Wreath, the third candle is rose-colored for this reason.
  • White Candle (Optional). Sometimes, a fifth candle is placed in the center of the wreath. If used, this candle is white. It is lit on Christmas Day, representing the Light of the World that is now here, and is re-lit every day of the 12 days of Christmas. Circle. Symbolizes the eternal nature of God. Evergreens. Represents Christ's salvific victory over spiritual death.

Lighting The Appropriate Number of Candles

  • In the first week of Advent, light one purple candle.
  • In the second week of Advent, light two purple candles.
  • In the third week of Advent, light two purple candles and one rose candle.
  • In the fourth week, light all four candles.

Many families have adopted the following custom:

  • The youngest child lights the candle in the first week.
  • The oldest child lights the candles in the second week.
  • The mother lights the candles in the third week.
  • The father light the candles in the fourth week.

The Beginning of Advent

On the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent, the family gathers around the wreath decorated with greens. The firs purple candle should be lit. This candle signifies Hope

We gather around our wreath to begin the celebration of Advent. Let us ask our Father in heaven to fill our hearts with grace.

...Silent pause for prayer

Heavenly Father, we look forward to the celebration of Christmas and to the coming of the Lord in glory. Bless this Advent wreath and all of us. As we pray daily around it, fill us with your life and strengthen us for our daily tasks. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

1st Week of Advent

The first purple candle is lit.
The 1st candle signifies Hope

Heavenly Father, as we begin this Advent, give light to our eyes and peace to our hearts. May the Lord find us watching and waiting in joy when He comes. We pray in Jesus' name.

All: Amen.

2nd Week of Advent

The first and second purple candles are lit.
The second candle signifies Peace

Father in heaven, set our hearts ablaze to follow in the steps of John the Baptist. May we bring light and love to all we meet, that the darkness of sin and fear may be overcome. In Christ's name we ask this.

All: Amen.

3rd Week of Advent

The first, second and third purple candles are lit.
The third candle signifies Love

As we draw near to you, Lord God, keep us aware of your presence in all we do. Come with power to enlighten us by your grace, that we may live in praise and peace all our days. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

4th Week of Advent ("Gaudete Sunday")

All candles are lit.
The rose candle signifies Joy

Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we beseech Thee, and come; and with great power come to our aid, that, by the help of Thy grace, that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.

All: Amen.

Special Days of Preparation

Traditionally, the days from December 17 to the day before Christmas have as their focus the titles of Jesus. On these days, a special Scripture passage may be read to recall these titles. Three candles are used until the Fourth Sunday of Advent, when all four candles are lit.

December 17:  Jesus, the Wisdom of God 1 Cor 1:26-31

Leader: O Wisdom of God Most High, and fill our hearts with your word of truth.

All: Come Lord Jesus!

December 18:  Jesus, the new Lawgiver Mt 17:1-8

Leader: Come, O Giver of the Law, that we may be strengthened by your mighty power.

All: Come Lord Jesus!

December 19:  Jesus, the Flower of Jesse Rom 15:7-13

Leader: Come, O Flower of Jesse's Root, that we may be made fruitful witnesses of your love.

All: Come Lord Jesus!

December 20:  Jesus, the Key of David Rev 3:7-8

Leader: Come, O Key of David, to unlock the darkness of sin and free us by your grace.

All: Come Lord Jesus!

December 21:  Jesus, the Radiant Dawn Is 9:1-6

Leader: Come, O Radiant Dawn, sun of justice, and fill us with Your saving light.

All: Come Lord Jesus!

December 22:  Jesus, the King of the Nations Rev 19:11-16

Leader: Come, O King of the Nations, and bind us all together in the unity and peace we seek.

All: Come Lord Jesus!

December 23:  Jesus, Emmanuel Mt 1:18-23

Leader: Leader: Come, O Emmanuel, presence of God among us, and fill our hearts with every good gift.

All: Come Lord Jesus!

December 24:  [On Christmas Eve, the wreath can be renewed with new greenery and the candles replaced with new white tapers for use during the Christmas season.]

Leader: Lord Jesus, we approach that holy moment when Your coming as man is renewed in our hearts. Give us peace and allow us to celebrate Your presence with joy, that we may some day share Your glory. We ask this of You, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as One God, now and forever.

All: Come Lord Jesus!

The Christmas Season:  [From Christmas Day until the Baptism of the Lord, the following prayer can be used with the wreath.]

Leader: Father in heaven, you so loved us that You sent Your Son, among us as Savior and Lord. Fill us with Your blessing, that we may grow in love and continue to live our Christian faith. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.