Each year when the Christmas season is nearing, we often see a wreath with four candles in various places. This wreath may appear as just a novelty Christmas decoration hung on doors or windows. However for Christians, the wreath, called the Advent wreath, has a great significance in the coming celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
The Advent season signifies the forthcoming Christmas season, which, to most Christians, commemorates the arrival time of Jesus, mankind’s Savior. The season begins either on the last Sunday of November or first Sunday of December, whichever is closer to St. Andrew the Apostle’s feast day on November 30. The Advent started this year on December 1 and will be completed on December 22.
Advent is a Latin word, which means “the coming.” The occasion had been held for many centuries as a time for spiritual contemplation, excitement and celebration for the anticipated Christmas season. In the present time, Advent celebration is usually done in the church where the lighting ceremonies of the Advent wreath candles are observed during masses. Some Christian families who closely adhere to the practice find time to be together as a family to carry out the traditional lighting of candles in their respective homes. Usually at this time, homes and establishments are already decked with Christmas decorations.
The Advent wreath has a beautiful meaning. Made of twigs and leaves from different kinds of evergreens, the Advent wreath represents continuing life. The various evergreens that make up the wreath also bear traditional meanings that are related to faith in God. The laurel designates the victorious feat of Christians over suffering and persecution. The pine, yew and holly evergreens indicate eternal life, strength against temptation and healing. On the other hand, the spiky leaves call to mind the thrones in the crown of Jesus. The Advent wreath is made with a continuous circle with no end or beginning, symbolic of God’s eternal love and power.
Aside from evergreens, an Advent wreath is also decorated with pinecones, seedpods or nuts to depict life, death and resurrection. In its entirety, the wreath constitutes the promise of everlasting life that God the Father pledged to the people through the arrival of Christ the Son.
Three purple candles and one pink candle
Four candles are mounted on the Advent wreath, in which one is lighted for each week of the season. Of the four candles, three are purple and one is in pink color. The purple candles denote prayer, penance and preparatory rites that must be conducted during the four-week coverage. The pink rose is lit on the third Sunday during which the officiating priest or minister at the mass also wears pink vestments. This is called the Gaudete Sunday, a day of celebrating because the devotees have come at the mid part of the Advent and Christmas is soon to come.
In modern practice, the Advent wreath also has a white candle in the middle aside from the other four candles. This white candle represents Christ as the center of all the activities. Families who observe the Advent ceremony place the Advent wreath on the center of the table. One candle is lit every Sunday after the blessing of food usually at dinnertime.