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Friday, December 16, 2011

Do you Advent Wreath?

Advent Wreaths in Germany

The Advent tradition is a religious celebration in preparation for the arrival (or “advent”) of the Christ Child (das Christkind) on his “official” birthday, the 25th day of December. The Advent season and its celebration have changed over the years from a more serious, somber character (including giving up things, as for Lent) to one of a more joyous nature — including such treats as chocolate-filled Advent calendars. The four weeks leading up to Christmas Eve are a happy time—at least for those not too caught up in the increasingly hectic and commercial aspects of this time of the year.

Advent wreath
A typical German Adventskranz, or Advent wreath.
Today in German-speaking Europe many families set up an Advent wreath, or Adventskranz on the first Advent Sunday (the fourth before Christmas) to start off the Advent season. The picture on the left shows a typical evergreen Advent wreath with its four candles, one for each week of Advent. Traditional families gather around the wreath on each Advent Sunday to light the next candle and sing Christmas carols. This was even more important in the past, when the Christmas tree was usually reserved for a special unveiling only on Christmas Eve. Until then, the Advent wreath provided the evergreen look and aroma in the house.

It is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath with four candles and often, a fifth, white candle in the center. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Many Advent wreaths include a fifth, Christ candle which is lit at Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The custom is observed both in family settings and at public church services.

The ring or wheel of the Advent wreath of evergreens decorated with candles was a symbol in northern Europe long before the arrival of Christianity. The circle symbolized the eternal cycle of the seasons while the evergreens and lighted candles signified the persistence of life in the midst of winter. Some sources suggest the wreath—now reinterpreted as a Christian symbol—was in common use in the Middle Ages, others that it was established in Germany as a Christian custom only in the 16th century.

In Catholic churches, the most popular colours for the Advent candles are purple and rose. In the Western church, purple is the historic liturgical color for three of the four Sundays of Advent: once the color associated with royalty, it symbolizes Christ as the "Prince of Peace." Rose is the color for the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word "rejoice". Gaudete Sunday anticipates the joy of the Christmas celebration, so its color is a mixture of Advent purple and Christmas white. It may also symbolize the color of early dawn.
In Protestant churches it is more common to use four red candles (reflecting their traditional use in Christmas decorations) because rose vestments and decorations are not commonly used in Protestant churches. Blue is also a popular alternative color for both Advent vestments and Advent candles, especially in some Anglican and Lutheran churches. This is in keeping with the liturgical seasons; blue means hope and waiting, which aligns with the seasonal meaning of Advent. Other variations of the Advent wreath add a white candle in the center to symbolize Christmas, sometimes known as the "Christ candle." It can be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. White is the traditional festal color in the Western church. Four red candles with one white one is probably the most common arrangement in Protestant churches in Britain.

Villeroy and Boch Advent wreath.

As a young girl, we always had an advents wreath regardless in which country we lived.  My mother always made it with fresh greens and red candles. Although I've held steadfast to observing Advent, my wreaths are far from traditional.

This year, I used the sugar mold as our advent wreath.

I inserted some greens into some of the molds, a couple of pine cones and 4 white candles. 

Four Sundays before Christmas, the first candle is lit. The first and second candle are lit on the 3rd Sunday before Christmas. On the 2nd Sunday before Christmas, the first two candles plus one more are lit until on the Sunday before Christmas, all four candles will be lit.

This coming Sunday is one week before Christmas.
Are you ready?


Priscilla said...

Oh, yes. I've always had an Advent wreath. We always have observed Advent. I have several posts on Advent on my blog, Letter From the Northwest.
I'd be honored if you would take a look at it.

Barbara F. said...

We had one growing up, I have wanted one for a long time now. I am on the lookout, or perhaps I will just have to make it myself! xo

Lana Kim White Austin said...

Merry Christmas Dear Friend! I LOVE the sugar mold as Advent Wreath!@ And it fits with one of the things I love most about your blogging/decor...the rustic lux beauty!


Debbie said...

I can even tell you how much I love the use of the sugar mold as an advent "wreath". Vanessa @ At the Picket Fence did something not unlike that on her mantel. I loved the application.


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