Advent Wreaths

The Rev. Jim Richardson, Priest-in-Charge

You probably have noticed the wreath with four candles to the right of the altar. The Advent wreath has long been a part of our seasonal tradition as we await the birth of Jesus at Christmas.

The Advent wreath has its origins with the German Lutherans of the 16th century as a way to symbolize that light will come into the darkest of winters.  But it was not until the 19th century when it became popular. Historians point to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808-1881), a Protestant pastor who worked with the poor, for popularizing the Advent wreath. The children in his school for the urban poor would ask each day when Christmas would arrive. So Wichern took a wagon wheel and put 26 candles on it, and lit one candle a day in Advent. A large white candle was lit for each Sunday of Advent. The custom did not reach the United States until the 1930s, and it was simplified: wagon wheels optional.

In our contemporary custom, Advent wreaths typically have four candles – one for each Sunday of Advent – with a white candle in the middle to be lit on Christmas Day. The candles can be purple or blue (either color is appropriate for Advent; the English church tilts toward blue). Sometimes a pink candle is used for the third Sunday of Advent when the Virgin Mary is celebrated – traditionally, pink is Mary’s color.

Advent candles are also appropriate for the home. Many of us have a tradition of lighting a candle on Sunday evenings in Advent and saying prayers together as a family. May your Advent be filled with much light and many blessings!