Liturgical Symbolism of the Advent Wreath

The Advent Wreath comes from an old European tradition. It was mainly a way to involve even very little children in learning about preparation for Christmas spiritually. The main symbolism of the Advent wreath is the coming of Light into the world is clear. The gradual lighting of the four candles, one on each Sunday of the Advent season, combined with the liturgical colors of the candles purple is the penitential color used during Advent and Lent. The desert rose color used only on the third Sunday of Advent Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice Sunday) helps to symbolize not only our expectation and hope in Our Savior's first coming into the world, but also in his Second Coming as Judge at the end of the world.

As a family tradition, the wreath itself is also symbolic. The circle of evergreen in which the candles are placed represents everlasting life. The seedpods, nuts, and cones used to decorate the wreath are symbolic of new life. On the first Sunday of Advent, the wreath may be sprinkled with holy water to bless it before the first purple candle is lit. Then the blessing before meals is said if you use the wreath at mealtime. The second Sunday two purple candles are lit; the third Sunday, two purple and one rose; and all candles are lit on the fourth Sunday.

In the family, children who are old enough can take turns lighting the candles every Sunday at the beginning of the dinner meal. The littlest ones can blow them out at the end of the meal. If you use the wreath at mealtime, it is helpful to place it on a tray or platter so it can be moved, and to protect the table from candle wax.

On Christmas Day, all the greens and decorations may be replaced with fresh ones, and four new white candles, symbolizing Christ. The white candles replace the colored ones and are lit throughout the Christmas season. Since the Advent season is a reminder to pray and watch, the family when together may pray the Angelus at the lunch and dinner family meal.

Monsignor John S. Mbinda