The Advent wreath first appeared in Germany
in 1839. A Lutheran minister working at a
mission for children created a wreath out of
the wheel of a cart. He placed twenty small red
candles and four large white candles inside the
ring. The red candles were lit on weekdays and
the four white candles were lit on Sundays.
Eventually, the Advent wreath was created out of evergreens,
symbolizing everlasting life in the midst of winter and death. The circle
reminds us of God’s unending love and the eternal life He makes
possible. Advent candles are often nestled in the evergreen wreath.
Additional decorations, like holly and berries, are sometimes added.
Their red color points ahead to Jesus’ sacrifice and death. Pinecones
can symbolize the new life that Jesus brings through His resurrection.
Families begin lighting a candle on the fourth Sunday before Christmas,
and they light another candle each subsequent Sunday.
The most common Advent candle tradition, however, involves four
candles. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before
Christmas. Each candle represents something different, although
traditions vary. The four candles traditionally represent hope, faith,
joy, and peace. Often, the first, second, and fourth candles are purple;
the third candle is rose-colored. Sometimes all the candles are red; in
other traditions, all four candles are blue or white. Occasionally, a fifth
white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day to
celebrate Jesus’ birth.