A basic guide for those new to the tradition.
Advent wreaths are a Christian tradition with roots in 16th-century Germany. They are seen both in churches and in homes and are an excellent way to prepare for the celebration of Christmas.
Here is a step-by-step introduction to the practice and how to implement it in your home.
Create (or buy) an Advent wreath
There is no hard and fast rule regarding what an Advent wreath looks like. A traditional wreath contains a circle of evergreen leaves surrounding a set of four candles. There are usually three purple candles and one rose (pink) candle. However, some traditions have four red candles and others contain an extra white candle. For the purposes of this article we will focus on the three purple and one rose.
Pray together each night of Advent (or each Sunday) to light the Advent wreath
The beauty of the Advent wreath is that it is a constant reminder of the upcoming celebration of Christmas. It reminds us to prepare our own hearts to receive the Light of Christ and to keep it burning each and every day.
Depending on your circumstances, the Advent wreath can be lit each day of Advent or only on Sundays. Whichever one works with your schedule, stick to it as best as you can.
There is a brief prayer associated with the lighting of the Advent wreath. Here is one example.
Leader: We gather around our wreath to begin the celebration of Advent. Let us ask our Father in heaven to fill our hearts with grace. Silent pause for prayer Heavenly Father, we look forward to the celebration of Christmas and to the coming of the Lord in glory. Bless this Advent wreath and all of us. As we pray daily around it, fill us with your life and strengthen us for our daily tasks. We ask this through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.
The rest of the prayers for each Sunday can be found here.
Another option for the prayers said around the Advent wreath is to pray the opening prayer at Mass. Here is the first Sunday of Advent (the rest of the prayers can be found here).
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,the resolve to run forth to meet your Christwith righteous deeds at his coming,so that, gathered at his right hand,they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever.
Light each candle according to the Sunday in Advent
If you decide to have a traditional wreath with purple candles, it is appropriate to light them according to the correct Sunday.
- For the first week of Advent, light one purple candle.
- During second week of Advent, light two purple candles.
- When you reach the third week of Advent (traditionally called Gaudete Sunday), light two purple candles and one rose (pink) candle.
- During the fourth week, light all four candles.
If you use a white candle in the center, it is lit on Christmas Eve.
The custom is fairly simple to implement and is a perfect way to introduce prayer into the home if you don’t already have a nightly tradition of prayer. Children love Advent wreaths and to heighten the drama, it is always great to light the candle in the darkness. This further highlights the symbolism and points to Christ being the true “light of the world.”
If you are looking for a new tradition this year in December, consider the Advent wreath.