of the most recognizable Catholic symbols of the Advent season is currently
the Advent wreath.
The concept of the Advent wreath actually originated in pre-Christian
times when people would gather evergreens and light candles to ward off the
darkness of winter and serve as a sign of hope that spring would come.
By the 16th century, Catholics in Germany began using the wreath
as a sign of Christ’s coming. From there the tradition slowly spread throughout
the world as Germans immigrated to various countries.
of the Wreath
The circular wreath represents the fact that God
has no beginning and no end. The evergreen branches stand
for everlasting life.
Four candles—representing Christ as the light
of the world—adorn the wreath. Traditionally, three of the
candles are purple, a sign of penance. (Sometimes the three
candles are blue.) These candles are lit on the first, second
and fourth weeks of Advent.
On the third week a rose (pink) candle is lit.
This week is known as “Gaudete” Sunday, Latin for “rejoice.”
The rose candle symbolizes joy. (Make sure to check out the
priest’s vestments at Mass on this Sunday. They might be rose
to match the rose candle that you will be lighting.)
In addition to these four candles, many people
place a white candle in the center of their Advent wreath.
This candle is called the Christ candle and is lit on Christmas
Day to represent the birth of Christ.
The candles should be lit each day of the appropriate
week and for the subsequent weeks. For example, during the
third week you will light two purple candles and the rose
Family's Advent Wreath
I can remember always having an Advent wreath in our home
when Iwas growing up. Now that I have my own family, it’s
a tradition that I enjoy continuing. But I must admit that
at times it seems stale. Here are some suggestions for making
your family’s Advent wreath one to remember:
Make your own Advent wreath. Last year, my parish hosted an evening
where families came and made their own Advent wreaths for a small fee for materials.
If you can’t find an event like this, however, you can always purchase the necessary
supplies at most craft stores or at the local garden store. Gather the family
together one evening to construct your Advent wreath.
For different variations on the traditional Advent
wreath, such as a John the Baptist wreath or a Bread-dough
wreath, check out Holy
Bells and Wonderful Smells, by Jeanne Hunt (St.
Anthony Messenger Press).
Personalize your wreath. Ask family members to attach
something small to the wreath that represents them, something
they are thankful for or praying for.
After you have either made or bought your Advent wreath,
bless it. The U.S. bishops have a blessing you can use at
Remember to adapt prayers so that they work for your
family. I learned this lesson the hard way. Last year I picked
up a book of Advent prayers at church for our family to use.
The book provided Scripture readings, meditations and prayers.
As an adult I thought it offered a lot. But sometimes less
After the second Sunday when we read about John
the Baptist and it mentioned that he ate grasshoppers, that
was all we heard about for the rest of dinner—and the following
day—from my four-year-old daughter, Madison. The whole point
of the reading was lost on her. In short, we should either
have found a more age-appropriate reading or adapted what
we had for our situation.
Next Month: Time for the Souper Bowl