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Advent Wreath: One of Christianity’s Christmas Traditions

The Advent wreath, otherwise known as the Advent crown, is one of the symbols of the Christian season of Advent, which is a season in the liturgical calendar that takes place four weeks before Christmas.  It is a popular gift among celebrants of the Western church during this time.  As a gift it can be ornate or simple, depending on the nature of the people involved, as it needs not be an extravagant gift.  Indeed, this symbol is merely a physical reminder of the proper dedication of the season, as it leads up to the biblical birth of Jesus Christ.

Traditionally, the Advent wreath is a flat, horizontal, evergreen, circle of leaves.  The wreath itself holds four calendars, each of which signifying the four weeks of the season.  On the First Sunday of Advent, the first candle is lit and sometimes followed by a reading from the Bible.  If you attend church during this season then you will likely witness both the lighting and the reading as part of the standard Sunday service.  Some churches might hold an optional Saturday evening mass, in which case they will still perform the ceremony since this gathering is honorary of the traditional Sabbath mass.

Over the course of the four weeks of advent, each of the four candles of the Advent wreath is lit, respectively.  Of course, you can follow the ceremonious lighting of each candle with the bible verse for that week.  This customary process will then continue until the final Sunday before Christmas.  On some occasions, a fifth candle might also be included.  Those who observe the “Christ” candle place it in the center of the wreath and light it first thing Christmas morning to welcome the new baby Jesus.

Like most Christian symbols the Advent wreath has roots in Northern European traditions from long before the introduction of Christianity.  The circular symbolism represented the eternal cycle of the four seasons.  The evergreen color combined with the candles is believed to represent the way the nature and life persist even through the harsh winter.  The exact birth of the symbolic wreath is unknown, however, as some historians trace it to common use in the Middle Ages, while others maintain that it begin in Germany during the 16th century.  Regardless of where it came from, it is a staple in the Christian church and is highly regarded as a necessary component of the Christmas season.

You can make your own Advent wreath with the leaves of evergreen trees that you might find in your backyard.  If you live in an area where these trees do not grow naturally, you can simply wait until you buy your Christmas tree and pluck the leaves from that.  You can easily obtain the candles at a local retailer of Christian books and gifts.  Sometimes, you might also be able to attend a church-sponsored ceremony where you can build them with other church members.  Finally, you can also probably find hand-made versions all over the internet which you can purchase and ship to your home.

This article was published on Monday 23 August, 2010.

Up a level: Liturgical Calendar
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