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Advent Wreath Candles

No one knows exactly where the tradition of the Advent wreath had its beginnings. The lighting of Advent wreath candles had been a part of that tradition for hundreds of years. The lighting of candles can be traced to winter rituals that predate the Middle Ages in Pagan and Germanic tribe ceremonies.  The Christian Church adopted and formalized the wreath and candles in its Christmas tradition somewhere around 1600.


There are many aspects to the symbolism and meaning of Advent wreath candles. One of those aspects is the candle colors. There are five candles in all. Four of them are lit on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas and the fifth candle is lit on Christmas Day. Traditionally, this was a somber and reflective time for church goers. The church decided to add some color and hope into the ceremony.  The first 2 candles and the fourth candle are all purple representing Christ’s rule and royal lineage directly from God. The third candle is rose or pink to mark the half way point of the Advent season to give the faithful hope that Christ and Christmas were coming and their sacrifices were coming to an end.

Candle Symbolism

Although the Advent wreath candles may look similar, each one has its own meaning.  The first candle is known as the Candle of Hope.  This candle represents faith in God that he will keep his promises to the people of the Earth. The second candle is known as the Candle of Preparation. This candle is there to remind believers to be ready to receive God’s love. The third of the five candles is the Candle of Joy.  This candle represents the angel’s triumphant singing announcing the birth of Christ. The fourth candle is the Candle of Love, which reminds the faithful that God loved them enough to send his only Son to die for their sins. The final candle is known as the Christ Candle. This white candle is placed in the in the center of the wreath representing Jesus Christ himself as the light of the world.

Some scholars believe there is a bit more to the symbolism regarding  why there are four Advent wreath candles. Old Testament scholars believe that the four candles represent the 4,000 years between the creation, Adam and Eve, and the birth of Christ.  These two events are used as the time frame to mark the age before history. Many fundamentalist believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old and use the Old Testament as literal proof of that assumption. 

The light of the Advent wreath candles represents hope and the love of Christ in the world. The wreath itself relates to time in that it represents the eternal nature of God and Heaven. The candles all represent the light of the way of faith in one way or another.  Whether you are a fundamentalist, literalist, or progressive, the meaning and beauty of these traditional wreaths is an important part of the Christmas season for all Christians.

This article was published on Tuesday 17 November, 2009.

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