Everything You Need to Know About the Advent Wreath
The turkey is cooked. The pie tins are empty. It’s official: Christmas season is upon us. Whatever you believe about the correct time to start listening to Christmas music, the fact is that for the next month, Grandma’s gettin’ run over by a reindeer on a loop, 24/7. Put out the lights, trim the tree, hang the stockings…and don’t forget your Advent wreath!
3 Reasons Why You Should Have an Advent Wreath
An Advent wreath is much more than another Christmas decoration to set up somewhere in your home. Much like a Christmas tree, this wreath is an opportunity to come together in your home to celebrate the Christmas season. Unlike your tree, an Advent wreath is an interactive symbol for the entire month leading up to December 25. Celebrating with the Advent wreath adds depth to these three elements of your Christmas season:
1. Expectation – Get excited!
The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas—this year, that is November 29. Starting that day, one candle is lit each Sunday, and the fifth candle in the center is lit on Christmas Day. This way, the wreath visually represents the growing Christmas season.
More than that, each candle is full of symbolism. The Advent wreath reminds us that we are not merely expecting gifts, vacation, or a season of being generous. Instead, the Advent wreath helps us focus on the story of Jesus Christ and our own experience getting to know Him!
2. Preparation – Enjoy the best of Christmas.
Around this time of year, people start to talk about the “Christmas spirit.” Holiday movies show characters learning the “true meaning of Christmas.” Advent is, in a sense, the old word for the same thing.
During Advent, we are preparing for the arrival of our Savior, celebrating the story of His birth, and remembering that Jesus is our Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. But Advent is also more than a time to act like we are full of Christmas spirit.
The Advent wreath connects our story to the original Christmas story and sets us up to live differently. We end our year well and start the next year right—being generous, loving, and joyful even after December 25, finding ways to bring hope, healing, and beauty into the world.
3. Instruction – Christmas is not just history.
Advent is also a month for getting back to the basics of our faith. We teach children about the story of Jesus’ birth with the Advent wreath. We learn about the history of God’s people and the prophecies leading up to Jesus’ birth with the Advent wreath. We experience the growing light week by week as more candles are lit on the Advent wreath.
And we remember how our own lives have intersected with Jesus through the years. Whether you have celebrated Advent for decades or are just discovering the word “Advent” for the first time, the Advent wreath offers an opportunity to be freshly inspired by the glory of God.
5 Meanings Hidden in the Advent Wreath
If you’re ready to give the Advent wreath a try this year, here’s a quick look at the five parts of the wreath and what they mean.
- The Circle
The traditional wreath is arranged in a circle, with no beginning or end, to remind us that Jesus Christ is eternal, also with no beginning or end (Hebrews 13:8; John 1:1-5). At Christmas, we celebrate the miracle that the eternal Word of God became human and was born (John 1:14), but the wreath reminds us that the baby is not the beginning of the story!
Many wreaths are no longer arranged in a circle. The stories leading to Christmas and meanings of the candles still point to the ongoing story, a story God started from the beginning, long before Mary saw an angel. That story continues through today and into the future. If you like the non-traditional arrangements, go after it!
- Evergreen Branches
Like many wreaths, the Advent wreath is typically made of evergreen branches to remind us of life. Jesus came to bring us life—not only some deeper meaning for our daily routines but the true life of resurrection from the dead (Colossians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 15:19). The addition of pine cones, nuts, or other seed pods to the wreath symbolize new life and resurrection.
Finally, some wreaths use prickly holly leaves to represent the crown of thorns Jesus wore at His crucifixion, and the red berries represent the blood He shed to provide life reconciled to God (Colossians 1:20).
The key feature of the Advent wreath are the candles, typically four around the ring of the wreath and one in the center (some wreaths omit the center candle). Each candle is also tied to a theme—hope, peace, joy, and love—for the weeks leading up to Christmas. The fifth candle represents Christ himself arriving on Christmas Day.
An enormous variety of Advent guides are available to read as you light the candles. Check out one of the following to take you through this joyous and wondrous season: The Bible Project Advent Series, The Advent Project from Biola University's CCCA, and Shadow and Light.
- Colored Candles
Traditional Advent wreaths use three purple (or dark blue) candles, one pink candle, and one white candle (in the center). The purple (or dark blue) represents royalty, reminding us that the baby we’re looking forward to is also our coming King. The royal colors also remind us to prepare ourselves to meet our King, to act and live in a way that is worthy of Him (1 Thessalonians 2:12).
The color pink, associated with the Third Sunday of Advent, represents joy: the joy of the good news of Christmas (Luke 2:10-11). At the midpoint of the Advent celebration, the color change of the candle also serves as a visual reminder that the season of waiting and preparing is nearing an end.
The center candle is white, the color of purity. Not only is this baby a coming King, the cause of joyful good news, but He is the pure and unblemished Savior of the World (Hebrews 9:11-14; John 1:29).
Perhaps the most important symbolism of the wreath is the light of the candles, shining brighter each week as the season progresses. The Advent wreath takes us from literal darkness into the light of Christ (John 1:5).
How to Make Your Own Advent Wreath
The beauty of the Advent wreath is that it is simple and also meaningful. It is a beautiful centerpiece that helps us prepare for and celebrate the entire season well. Though there are premade wreaths available for purchase in many places, the best way to start your Advent celebration is to create the Advent wreath that is most meaningful to you!
Below are three DIY Advent wreaths to get you started on celebrating Advent—and Christmas—this year!