In a little bit of detail I want to tell you some information about the traditional Advent Wreath.
The Word: “Advent” derives from the Latin verb “ven” which means to come. Beginning on the Sunday nearest to the Feast of St. Andrew, one week after the Feast of Christ the King, and encompassing four Sundays, we prepare ourselves to celebrate the coming of the Christ. One of the most familiar traditions of the season is the Advent wreath, profuse in symbolic promise. Though the word Advent is of Latin origin, the tradition of the wreath is probably Germanic.
Historically: The wreath is possibly of pre-Christian Germanic origin when people lit candles and placed them on wreaths during the dark days of December as a sign of hope for the light to come with spring. Likely during the Middle Ages, the wreath was adapted by Christians, to spiritually prepare for Christmas. Christ is called (among other names) the “Light of the World”. The celebration of Advent using a wreath gained popularity in the 19th century and was brought to America via German immigrants in the 1900’s.
The Wreath Shape: Christ is eternal; with neither a beginning nor an end. We can say the wreath itself reminds us of Christ’s eternal presence with its circular shape. As far back as the seventh century, wreaths were used in baptism and wedding ceremonies.
What it’s made of: The tradition began with evergreen wreaths and we might safely assume that people used what was available. Evergreens, plentiful and pliable, would have been a logical resource. Evergreen also symbolizes life because it remains green and alive even in the dead of winter.
About those Candles: The flame represents Christ as the Light of the World. As the season progresses, church folks become more hopeful and expectant as more candles are lit to indicate that the light of the World is ever closer. The light casts away darkness.
The Colors: Typically, an Advent wreath has three purple and one pink candle. The white Christ candle is also included. The three purple candles represent prayer, penance and preparation and are meant to remind us how our hearts should reflect the season.