By Larry Ellis
The Advent wreath probably originated during the Renaissance in the Middle European countries of Austria and Hungary. The making of the wreath was a family custom using evergreen boughs, grains, berries and fruit. Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas; a purple candle is placed in the wreath and lighted signifying the “waiting period”. On the second Sunday another purple candle is placed on the wreath and both are lighted. On the third Sunday a rose candle signifying “joy” is placed in the wreath and the three candles are lighted. On the fourth Sunday another purple candle is added and all four are lighted. The period of spiritual preparation reaches a climax on Christmas morning when a white candle, signifying the Christ Child, is lighted and used to light the other four, then placed in the center of the wreath.
The use of the Advent wreath today teaches the true meaning of Christmas. When the lighting of the candles on Christmas morning is complete people are prepared for the religious event – the birth of the Christ Child. In this way, Christmas means more than gifts, Santa and colored lights. These traditions are important but they should not obscure the significance of Christmas as represented in the Advent wreath.