• Catholics and many other Christians celebrate Advent for four weeks before Christmas. Worshipers light one candle the first Sunday of Advent and an additional candle each Sunday until Christmas. The candles are usually arranged in an Advent wreath.


    For centuries, people in Scandinavia and Germany had a tradition of keeping a wreath in the winter. The evergreens in the wreath symbolized life and the candles in the wreath provided light and reminded them that the days would eventually get longer.


    The wreath and its candles were reinterpreted by early Christians. According to a resource for members of the United Church of Christ, "during the Middle Ages, Christians adopted this symbol and reinterpreted its meaning: the lighted candles symbolized the light of Christ shining in the night, and the evergreens represented the new life that Christ brings into the world."


    During Advent, Christians wait for the birth of Jesus on Christmas. Father William Saunders, a Catholic priest, explains that "the progression of lighting candles shows our increasing readiness to meet our Lord."


    In Catholic churches, the three purple candles represent preparation and penitence. The pink candle represents joy and the white candle in the middle represents Christ.

    Advent at Home

    Many denominations encourage families to have an Advent wreath at home and to light the appropriate candles before their evening meal.


    United Church of Christ: Advent: The Journey to Christmas

    Catholic Education: The Liturgical Season of Advent by Fr. William Saunders

    More Information:

    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: What is an Advent Wreath?

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