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Advent wreath

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Advent wreath

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Advent Wreath lit for the Second Sunday of Advent
Advent Wreath lit for the Second Sunday of Advent

An advent wreath is a ring or set of four candles, usually made with evergreen cuttings and used for household devotion by some Christians during the season of Advent. Many churches illuminate these candles in succession through the four weeks leading up to Christmas as part of their Sunday services for Advent.

Typically, three of the candles are violet-coloured, and one is rose-coloured. Increasingly, due to changes in the Church's lectionary in the United States, all four candles may be violet. When used in household devotion, one violet candle is lit on the first evening of Advent (a Saturday). On successive Saturdays, the second violet candle is added, then the rose candle, and finally, the third violet candle. Some Anglicans and Lutherans use blue candles rather than violet. Some wreaths have a larger, central fifth candle (generally white), which is lit on Christmas Day to signify Christ's birth.

The wreath is meant to represent God's eternity. The violet candles symbolize faithful expectation, and the rose candle joy and hope. In earlier times the season of Advent had stronger penitential and ascetic aspects, and a relaxation of disciplines was offered on the third Sunday of Advent, also called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin for "rejoice." This turn is reflected in the theme of rejoicing and the shift from violet to rose.

The first candle is often called the prophet's candle, and is meant to signify the hope of Jesus' arrival. The second is generally called the Bethlehem candle, reminding Christians that God appeared to them in a humble manner; Bethlehem was located in the territory of one of the least powerful tribes of Israel. The third candle is the shepherds' candle, representing the joy that more than half of Advent is over. The final candle is the angels' candle, symbolising their peace and the message of good news that they offer.

The first Advent wreath was invented by Johann Hinrich Wichern, a Protestant parson in Hamburg, Germany (sources differ about the year: 1839 or 1848.) He was leading an orphanage. The children first made a wooden ring (another source says it was a chandelier) of 2m in diameter with 28 candles affixed on one side: Four white ones, which were bigger to indicate the advent sundays, and 24 smaller red-coloured candles. During each service of daily prayer a child would light one candle, until on Christmas Eve all of them would be illuminated. It is thought that children liked this ring so much that they decorated it with evergreen twigs, mainly from fir trees. Later the number of candles was reduced to the four main ones.

It took about 100 years until home decoration with advent wreaths became a custom in Germany. It has now spread to other countries as well.


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Christmas Guide, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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