The Advent Wreath is a circle of entwined evergreen branches that symbolize eternity. It holds five different candles and throughout the season of Advent (the month prior to Christmas) one candle is lit each week representing different aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of Christianity's saviour, Jesus Christ believed to be the son of God.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the celebration of Advent began sometime after the 4th century. This was a time of preparation of Epiphany and not for the anticipation of Christmas. Epiphany is the celebration of the manifestation of Christ by remembering the visit of the wise men, and in some traditions the Baptism of Jesus. In the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great was the first person to associate the season of Advent with the Second coming of Christ. By the Middle Ages, the church extended the celebration of Advent to include the coming of Christ through his birth in Bethlehem, his future coming, and his presence among the people. Today's Advent services and customs are related to all three of these “advents” of Christ.
What do the candles mean?Placed on the wreath are four candles: three purple candles, one pink candle and one white candle. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the World.
- The first purple candle is lit on the first Sunday. This candle is called the “Prophecy Candle” and is for remembrance of the prophets, particularly Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This Candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
- The following Sunday another purple candle is lit. This candle represents love. Some traditions call this candle the “Bethlehem Candle,” which symbolizes Christ’s manger.
- On the third Sunday the pink candle is lit. This pink candle represents joy and is called the “Shepherds Candle.”
- On the fourth Sunday, the fourth and last of the purple candles is lit. This candle is called the “Angel’s Candle” and represents peace.
- On Christmas Eve, the white candle, which is the center of the Advent wreath, is lit. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world. The color white represents purity. It is made to symbolize that those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.