The world has lost the spirit and rhythm of Advent. One cherished tradition in Western, Celtic, English, and some Eastern observance is the Advent Wreath.
The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is a circle which can be made of various evergreens to signify continuous life, hope, and renewal. One traditional meaning of the wreath or laurel is that it signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, signify immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the thorns decreed to come from the ground at the time of the fall and the thorny crown of Christ in His passion. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath may also symbolize life and resurrection. All of this is promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man.
The western wreaths have four candles to represent the four weeks of Advent . They also signify the four centuries between the prophet Malachi and the Nativity as the time of longing, expectation and fulfillment of the words spoken by the Prophets. Also, each candle represents one thousand years, to sum up the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior (we arrive at four thousand if we use a strict Biblical chronology – a very good idea IMHO.)
Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing (gaudete means rejoice), because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.
At midnight on Christmas Eve, a usually larger white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents the light of Jesus’ arrival through His birth. Another tradition is to replace the purple rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season which ends on January 6th with the feast of the Epiphany.
Here is a link with suggestions about how to make your own Advent Wreath;
and an online Advent Calendar:
ADVENT WREATH BLESSING TOMORROW!