You are probably familiar with an Advent calendar, which is a Christmas tradition in many homes, both Christian and secular. An Advent calendar is a similar idea to that of an Advent wreath. Instead of opening a small door to reveal trinkets or pieces of chocolate leading up to Christmas day, a candle is lit on each of Sundays before Christmas, with the fifth being lit on Christmas Day. The four, smaller candles, three of which are usually purple representing hope, peace, and love. The fourth candle is pink, (we’ll explain why later), and is representative of joy. The fifth and final candle is lit on Christmas day, this candle represents the birth of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, only four Advent candles are used, three purple and one pink. Each candle holds the same meaning as it would if there were five, the only difference being that there is no candle representative of Jesus’ birth.
The candle of hope is the first candle to be lit. This purple candle is lit on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, kicking off the Advent season. The Hope this candle represents is the hope held within Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, this candle is called the “Prophecy Candle,” in memory of the prophets who anticipated the birth of Jesus and the hope they felt during that time of excitement.
The candle that is lit on the second Sunday of Advent is the candle of peace. The candle of peace, similar to the candle of hope, is purple and represents the peace found from within the Lord. This candle is also known as the “Bethlehem Candle,” which serves as a reminder of the journey Mary and Joseph took on their way to Bethlehem.
The third Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete Sunday is celebrated by many observing holidays of the Western Church. This holiday can fall anywhere between December 11 and December 17, but it is always celebrated on the second Sunday from Christmas, or the third Sunday of December.
The candle that is lit on the third Sunday is the candle of Joy. This candle is the only pink candle and represents the joy found in Jesus Christ. The reason this is the only pink candle is that pink or rose is the color that symbolizes joy.
The Fifth Candle
Often, the Advent candles are situated around an Advent wreath. The story goes that a Lutheran minister made the first Advent “wreath” out of the wheel from an old cart. The wreath he made had twenty-four red candles surrounding the outside of the wheel, with four white candles in the center. He lit the red outer candles on every weekday throughout the month of December, saving the four white candles for Sundays.
Today, we continue the tradition, with a few slight modifications that each hold their own meaning. We’ve swapped the wagon wheel for a wreath made of evergreen and use fewer candles. The four colored candles line the outer ring of the wreath while the fifth, white candle rests in the center.
The twisted evergreens are symbolic of life throughout the seasons, and the shape of the wreath helps to remind us of Christ’s everlasting love for us. Many decorate their Advent wreaths with holly leaves or berries, you can use anything that is meaningful to you.
Having a better understanding of the Advent season can help you to grow in your faith and celebrate the season even more. Many Christians celebrate Advent during December, but you may be asking yourself, “What exactly is Advent?” Here, we will answer that question and several others about this Christian holiday celebration.