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Advent Wreath Myths

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Advent wreaths actually originated back in ancient Roman times. Many people mistakenly believe that Martin Luther invented the Advent wreath, as he used it to educate Christians, which popularized it among households. Martin Luther had various ways to help people teach the catechism at home to children. The early Advent wreaths were used in Germany, and were a yearly a tradition in Lutheran family homes. They became popular in churches in the middle of the 20th century.


To make Advent wreaths, you simply need four candles, which can either be attached to a wreath, or even set in a circle on a table or shelf. Traditionally, the candles are purple, as purple was the color of royalty in ancient times; purple dye was very expensive, so only the upper class could afford it. The purple candles symbolize the coming of the King, but if you can't find purple candles, use blue. Some people use a fifth white candle in the circle of the wreath.


The purple candles represent each Sunday of Advent, with the optional white candle symbolizing Christmas Day. There are some different interpretations as to what each candle means, as meanings have grown and changed over the years. Originally, the candles only stood for a countdown – the first Sunday of Advent, the second, and so on. However, over the years, people have given each candle qualities such as Hope, Joy, and Faith. There are no completely standardized meanings, so people may have varying ideas on what they really mean.


A pink candle is becoming more and more popular in the Advent wreath, to stand as the fourth candle. In other wreaths, all four candles are the color pink. This comes from the old tradition of the Pope giving someone a rose on the fourth Sunday of Lent, which led to the Roman Catholic clergy wearing rose-colored vestments each year on that Sunday. The rose-colored robes the clergy wore were worn to lighten the sombre mood of Advent, which was extremely serious. Some people have adopted this tradition when making the Advent wreath.


How you use your Advent wreath is up to you, whether that means lighting the candles before each worship service and snuffing them out at the end, or using them for family devotions each Sunday. There is an order to how you light and snuff the candles. Each week before you light a new candle, you light the candles from the previous Sundays. At the end of each service, the candles are snuffed out. One tip: always make sure you snuff out candles after a service, and use a candle-snuffer rather than blowing them out, to avoid hot wax ruining your surface. If you do have a fifth candle, on Christmas Day you light the candles in order, and the center one last. You can choose from a number of Advent readings and prayers to complete your service, as it's a personal devotion; use whichever scriptures you like. Making an Advent wreath is an ideal way to build a family tradition that celebrates the coming of Christ.

This article was published on Sunday 11 October, 2009.

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Related Topics:
  • Lenten Season
  • Easter Season

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