Significance of the Advent Wreath
The beginning of Advent is a time for the hanging of the
greens, decoration of the church with evergreen wreaths, boughs,
or trees that help to symbolize the new and everlasting life
brought through Jesus the Christ. Some churches have a special
weekday service, or the first Sunday evening of Advent, or even
the first Sunday morning of Advent, in which the church is
decorated and the Advent wreath put in place. This service is
most often primarily of music, especially choir and hand bells,
and Scripture reading, along with an explanation of the various
symbols as they are placed in the sanctuary.
The Advent wreath is an increasingly popular symbol of
the beginning of the Church year in many churches as well as
homes. Traditionally it contains four candles—three purple and
one rose. Candles symbolize the light of God coming into
the world through the birth of His son.
Purple dyes were one so rare and costly that they were
associated with royalty; the Roman Catholic Church has long used
this color around Christmas and Easter to honor Jesus. The three
purple candles in the Advent wreath symbolize hope, peace, and
love. These candles are lit on the first, second, and fourth
Sundays of Advent. The rose candle, which symbolizes joy, is
usually lit on the third Sunday. Sometimes a fifth candle is
placed inside the Advent wreath. This candle is lit on Christmas
Day. It is white, the color associated with angels and the birth
The four outer candles also represent the period of
waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves
symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet
Malachi and the birth of Christ.
The circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself,
His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end.
The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have
in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life.
The wreaths have their origins in the folk traditions of
northern Europe, where in the deep of winter people lit
candles on wheel-shaped bundles of evergreen. Both the
evergreen and the circular shape symbolized ongoing life. The
candlelight gave comfort at this darkest time of the year, as
people looked forward to the longer days of spring.
Later, Eastern European Christians adopted this practice.
By the sixteenth century, they were making Advent wreaths much
as we know them today.
Because Advent wreaths are an informal celebration, not all
are the same. Instead of purple candles, some people use blue,
which recalls the color of the night sky before daylight
returns. Others use all white candles.