Monday, December 14, 2009


The Advent Wreath we use in our churches and homes originated in Northern Europe several centuries ago and has a great wealth of meaning. It is made up of several evergreens, which abound in that part of the globe: laurel, pine, holly, yew and cedar, together with pine cones, nuts and seedpods. In addition to the evergreens, the Advent Wreath includes also four candles: three purple and one pink.

Each of the components of the Wreath has a specific meaning. Its circular shape (without beginning or end) of evergreens signifies God’s eternity as well as the new life brought by Jesus Christ.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three of these candles are purple to signify the preparatory sacrifices, prayers, and good works undertaken in this period. The pink candle represents the rejoicing that characterizes the Third Sunday of Advent since the preparation for Christmas has already gone beyond the first half.

The progressive lighting of the candles (a new one every Sunday) symbolizes the re-living of the expectation and hope of the period that preceded the first coming of our Lord, as well as our constant preparation for His second coming.

Where the Advent Wreath is used in private homes, a special prayer is recited by the head of the family before the lighting of each new candle, which is done by the youngest member of the family.

In some places, on Christmas Eve, people light in the center of the Wreath a white candle which symbolizes Jesus Christ. A variation of this consists in replacing the four colored candles with four white ones (representing Jesus) that are lit for the first time during the Midnight Mass, and then every day of the Christmas period. At this stage, obviously, the “Advent Wreath” has evolved into the “Christmas Wreath” with its own specific meaning of “fulfillment” rather than expectation.