Advent is a journey towards Bethlehem. May we let ourselves be drawn by the light of God made man.—Pope Francis
History of the Advent Wreath
The Advent wreath has its origins in the Christian traditions of the Western Church and has evolved over time. Its history can be traced back to various customs and practices associated with the season of Advent, which is the period of preparation and anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas.
- Early Christian Practices: The use of wreaths, in general, dates back to ancient times, symbolizing victory and eternity. Early Christians in Germany are believed to have adopted the custom of using wreaths during the Advent season, incorporating evergreen elements to symbolize the enduring nature of God’s love.
- 16th Century – Johann Hinrich Wichern: The modern Advent wreath is credited to Johann Hinrich Wichern, a Protestant pastor in Germany in the 19th century. In 1839, Wichern created a wooden ring with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. The small candles were lit during the weekdays, and the large candles were lit on Sundays as a way to mark the progress of Advent.
- 20th Century – Liturgical Adaptation: The concept of the Advent wreath as we know it today became more standardized in the 20th century. It was adopted into the liturgical practices of both Protestant and Catholic churches. The wreath typically consists of a circular evergreen wreath with four candles, often three purple or blue candles and one pink or rose candle.
- Symbolism of the Advent Wreath:
- Circular Shape: The wreath’s circular shape represents eternity and the unending nature of God’s love.
- Evergreen Branches: Evergreen branches symbolize the hope of eternal life in Christ.
- Candles: The candles represent the four weeks of Advent. The three purple or blue candles represent hope, peace, and love, while the pink or rose candle represents joy. The central white candle, often lit on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, represents the birth of Christ, the Light of the world.
- Liturgical Usage: The Advent wreath is lit in churches and homes on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Each candle is associated with a specific theme or virtue corresponding to that week of Advent. The first week of Advent focuses on hope, the second week on peace, the third on joy (represented by the pink candle), and the fourth on love.
Over time, the Advent wreath has become a cherished tradition in many Christian households, providing a tangible and symbolic way for individuals and families to spiritually prepare for the Christmas celebration.
Creating an Advent Wreath with Fresh Pine Branches – Step-by-Step Guide
- Wire wreath form (available at craft stores or online)
- Fresh pine branches
- Pipe cleaner or floral wire
- Four candles (3 purple, 1 pink)
- Candle holders or small glass containers if your form doesn’t have them
- Purple and pink ribbon
- Pruning shears
- Optional: Decorative ornaments, berries, or pinecones
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Ensure you have all the necessary materials before starting the project. Lay out the wire wreath form, fresh pine branches, pipe cleaner/floral wire, candles, candle holders, ribbon, and any optional decorations you’d like to add.
Step 2: Prep the Wire Wreath Form
Position the wire wreath form on a flat surface. This will serve as the base for your Advent wreath.
Step 3: Trim and Prepare Pine Branches
Using pruning shears, trim the fresh pine branches into manageable lengths, around 6-8 inches. Remove any excess needles from the bottom part of the branches to make it easier to attach them to the wreath form.
Step 4: Attach Pine Branches to the Wreath Form
Take a trimmed pine branch and secure it to the wreath form using pipe cleaner/floral wire. Repeat this process, slightly overlapping each branch, until the entire wreath form is covered with pine branches. This creates the lush, green base for your Advent wreath.
Step 5: Add Decorative Elements (Optional) If you choose to add ornaments, berries, or pinecones, secure them to the wreath using pipe cleaner/floral wire. Distribute them evenly around the wreath for a balanced and festive look.
Step 6: Tie Ribbon Wrap a purple ribbon around each purple candle, securing it in a bow or knot. Do the same with the pink ribbon around the pink candle.
Step 7: Attach Candles Place the four candles evenly around the wreath. Use candle holders or small glass containers to secure them in place if your wreath form does not have them. Traditionally, three candles are purple, representing hope, peace, and love, while one candle is pink, representing joy.
Step 8: Display and Light Candles Place your completed Advent wreath in a central location in your home. Begin lighting the candles on each Sunday of Advent, starting with one purple candle in the first week, followed by two purple candles in the second week, the pink candle in the third week, and finally, all candles in the fourth week.
Enjoy the beauty and meaning of your handmade Advent wreath throughout the Christmas season!