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Irish advent wreath blends season and roots

Started in Germany by Lutherans in the 17th century, Advent is a formal part of the Catholic Church today. It is the continuation of a traditional practice of bringing into the house evergreen branches and illuminating them with candles to light up the dark winter months and remind people that spring would come. In the Catholic Church Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is to mark the coming of the birth of Jesus. A circular frame with four or five candle holders is decorated with evergreen sprigs or any other branches or flowers that are beautiful. An Irish advent wreath is a circle of Celtic design that reflects the ancient heritage of Ireland and Scotland. They have the ancient carving motif that pre-dates Christianity and was merged with Christian practices around the 6th century when Christianity first came to Ireland.


There are usually four candles, one to be lit each Sunday before Christmas, but an Irish advent wreath may also have five holders, the last one to be lit Christmas Eve. There are three purple candles and one pink. The fifth candle is white. The purple color resonates with Lent and repentance, when Advent was also a fasting time and the pink candle is lit on the third Sunday to symbolize joy with a break in the fasting. Advent also continues to be celebrated to remind people of the true meaning of Christmas.


An Irish advent wreath may have the Irish braid design circling endlessly around the wreath. The circle shape of any wreath used for Christmas represents eternity. The Celtic cross with the circle around the cross bars of the cross can also be an advent wreath with the candles on each arm of the cross. Genuine Irish wreaths are made with pewter and there is rubber or felt on the bottom so your furniture doesn’t get marked.


To keep the Irish tradition of the Emerald Isle sometimes three dark green candles and one light green candle is used in place of the purple and pink. Celtic advent is a bit different than the one started in the Middle Ages. It lasts for 40 days like Lent and includes fasting, unlike the 30 days advent of the Catholic Church. It begins before Thanksgiving but an Irish advent wreath will still have the same number of candles.


The excitement of Christmas coming distracts children from the true meaning of the holiday. Lighting an advent wreath gives parents an opportunity to discuss deeper things with the children. The Irish advent wreath also comes in strong resin that looks like pewter or stone. They still have the ancient Celtic atmosphere but are less costly. There are stained glass shamrocks in silver frames and gilded metal shamrock wreaths with four or five candle holders which are still very Irish but a break form tradition. The Irish braid and Celtic knot are ancient patterns in Celtic art since the 4th century. These designs were there before Christianity came to Ireland and were merged with Christian symbolism in the 6th century.



This article was published on Friday 12 February, 2010.

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