Advent is a part of the Christian tradition that is a time to prepare for Christmas Day. In Latin, "advent" means "coming" and represents the coming of Christ. When is the Advent? The first day of Advent is the first day of the liturgical, or church, calendar, and it falls on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas.
During the Advent season, Christians pray and reflect on the meaning of Christmas. One way that this is done is by lighting Advent candles each Sunday and reflecting on the meaning of each candle in the series.
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Advent wreath meaning
The Advent wreath holds the Advent candles. It may be simply a pewter wreath candle holder, although many wreaths have additional components to deepen the meaning of the wreath. The circular shape of the wreath represents the eternity and immortality of God and the soul.
Evergreens and pine cones are also often used to create the wreath. These represent life, and the type of evergreen used can offer additional meaning. For example:
- Cedar signifies healing and strength.
- Laurel signifies victory over suffering.
- Evergreens such as yew and pine signify immortality.
- Pine cones signify resurrection.
- Holly symbolizes the crown of thorns.
Advent candles meaning
There are four Advent candles, three of which are purple, and the fourth is pink or rose in color. Each candle holds a specific meaning and symbolism, and you will light each Advent candle in order each Sunday.
The candle for the first week of Advent is called the prophecy candle and is purple in color. The first candle symbolizes hope and the prophets that predicted the birth of Christ. The second candle is also purple. This candle is called the Bethlehem candle, and it is a representation of faith and love.
The candle for the third Sunday of Advent is the shepherd's candle. The third candle is pink in color, and represents joy for the birth of Jesus Christ. The fourth candle, or angel's candle, is purple in color. It represents peace.
The Advent candles also have additional meanings. Purple is a liturgical color that represents prayer and penance. In addition, the light from the candles represents the light of Christ that shines into the darkness representing sin.
Other Advent candle colors
In addition to the four Advent wreath candles, some wreaths may include a fifth candle in the middle of the wreath. This candle is white to represent purity and Christ. It is called the Christ candle and is lit on December 24th, or Christmas Eve.
While many Christians, including Catholics, use purple and pink Advent candles, Protestants may use red candles instead. White candles can also be substituted for purple and pink candles.
Other Advent traditions
Another way that Advent is recognized is with an Advent calendar in which you open a small door each day. Some calendars include candy or chocolate behind each door for each day leading up to Christmas. You can instead make a DIY calendar such as this chalkboard Advent calendar. Advent is also celebrated with prayer and song. Most people will decorate for the season with Christmas lights and a tree.
The season of Advent is an important part of the Christmas season and a way to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and themes such as hope, faith, love, joy and peace. The Advent wreath includes three purple candles and a pink candle, although some Christians use other colors.