One of the most recognizable Catholic symbols of the Advent season is the Advent wreath. It symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Church.
The concept of the Advent wreath originated in pre-Christian times when people would gather evergreens and light candles to ward off the darkness of winter and serve as a sign of hope that spring would come. By the 16th century, Catholics in Germany began using the wreath as a sign of Christ’s coming. From there the tradition slowly spread throughout the world as Germans immigrated to various countries.
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Symbolism of the Wreath: The circular wreath represents the fact that God has no beginning and no end. The evergreen branches stand for everlasting life. Four candles—representing Christ as the light of the world—adorn the wreath. Traditionally, three of the candles are purple, a sign of penance. (Sometimes the three candles are blue.) These candles are lit on the first, second, and fourth weeks of Advent.
On the third week a rose candle is lit. This week is known as “Gaudete” Sunday, Latin for “rejoice.” The rose candle symbolizes joy. (Make sure to check out the priest’s vestments at Mass on this Sunday. They might be rose to match the rose candle that you will be lighting.)
In addition to these four candles, many people place a white candle in the center of their Advent wreath. This candle is called the Christ candle and is lit on Christmas Day to represent the birth of Christ. The candles should be lit each day of the appropriate week and for the subsequent weeks. For example, during the third week you will light two purple candles and the rose one.
Wishing you a reflective Advent Season