Children do not understand symbols until they are at least 3 and only begin to understand metaphors between the ages of 4 and 7. So, the best way to explain Advent wreaths is to concentrate on the lesson you want your children to remember about Jesus Christ, God or the Advent season; explain the concepts simply and avoid talk of symbols.
The Shape of the Wreath
The wreath surrounds the four candles of Advent, the period that begins four weeks before Christmas. The wreath's circular shape is symbolic of eternity, as in eternal life given by Christ and the eternal love of God. If your children are very young, use a question-and-answer format to teach the concept. Start by asking: "What shape is the wreath?" When the children answer that it is a circle, tell them they are correct, and say: "Does a circle have a beginning? No. Does it have an ending? No. It goes round and round forever. That is to remind us that God's love goes on forever and ever."
The Evergreens in a Wreath
If your children are a bit older, such as 6 or 7, explain that the evergreens in the wreath symbolize eternal life. Keep the language simple. Avoid phrases like "being born again," which the evergreens can symbolize. Instead, say, "The evergreens remind us that God's love never dies, because evergreen leaves do not die the way other leaves do." If you like, substitute the phrase "Jesus's love" for "God's love."
- Focus on the Family: Celebrate Advent Season: The Candles, Wreath, Readings, and Calendar
- Catholic Education Resource Center: The History of the Advent Wreath
- Psychology, an Introduction: Development of the Understanding of Symbols
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: National Institutes of Health: Abstract
- Merriam-Webster: Advent