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The Advent Wreath

Every season of Advent is a new reminder of the promise of eternity. (CCC 1020 - 1029) Thus, Advent wreaths are made of evergreens to symbolize God's "everlastingness" and our immortality. (Purple is the liturgical color for Advent, green in the wreath symbolizes hope and new life.) Four candles—three purple or violet that represent penance, sorrow, and longing expectation and one rose or pink that represents the hope and coming joy—are used to represent the four weeks of Advent.

The custom of the Advent wreath originated in Germanic Europe. Wreaths were an ancient symbol of victory. In Christian symbolism, they represent the fulfillment of time in the coming of Christ and the glory of His birth. Wreaths of all kinds are round as a reminder of God's eternity and mercy.

Our family has an Advent wreath. We place our Advent wreath on our dinner table every evening through the season of Advent. We eat by its light alone. In the December darkness, the Light of God is brighter by contrast. The first week, the single candle seems very feeble and lonely. It reminds us of the faithful all over the world who are living in isolation or hostility. The second week, there are two lights, and we remember that Christ said, "Where there are two or more of you gathered in my Name, there also shall I be." The third week, we light the pink candle. We know Christmas is closer, and we think about the three members of the Holy Family. Finally, in the fourth week, all four candles are lit. We can see by their light to read the Nativity narratives from our Bible.

On Christmas Day, we replace the pink and purple candles with white ones. Our Advent wreath stays on the table for the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany. Now, the candles symbolize our joy at the coming of Christ and our prayers of thanksgiving to God.

Making an Advent Wreath

Advent wreaths can be simple or elaborate, made from fresh material or from artificial greenery. It is important to use something green, which symbolizes the new life brought to us by the birth of Jesus, and that the wreath be circular as a reminder of eternity.

A fresh wreath requires:

- shallow bowl or dish,
- oasis (also known as florist's foam, it is available from any florist),
- three purple candles,
- one pink candle,
- four white candles,
- pine or cedar boughs, or ivy.

Make the wreath by first soaking the oasis in warm water until it is completely saturated. Fit it into the bowl, carving it and packing it in tightly so that it will not shift around.

Then, carve four holes in the oasis for the candles. Place the candles in the holes you have made and begin sticking greenery into the oasis to cover it completely. It's nice to have some greenery trailing over the edges of the bowl and closely packed around the candles to hide all the foam.

If you keep the foam well watered, and don't let the candles burn down so low that they scorch the greenery, the wreath will last from the first Sunday of Advent until Epiphany.

A more permanent wreath requires:

- a plate or tray,
- a four-candle candelabra or four small candlesticks,
- three purple candles,
- one pink candle,
- four white candles,
- artificial garland, holly branches, branches from an artificial tree, or some other artificial greenery.

To make the wreath, arrange the candlesticks or candelabra on the tray. The tray allows the wreath to be moved easily. Then place the greenery around the candles in a pleasant arrangement. It can be embellished with red berries, a small creche, ribbons or whatever else is available.

Bless your wreath on the first Sunday of Advent by sprinkling it with holy water and saying a short prayer (Dads, this is your part!). In our home, we repeat the blessing each Sunday.

Advent Wreath Prayers

While lighting the Advent wreath every evening through Advent, it seems appropriate to say a short prayer or blessing expressing some of the feelings this small ceremony invokes. The creatively challenged among us (my husband and I included) find this intimidating, to say the least. Prayers like the following offer some help in this area.

Week 1
Let us pray. Stir up Your might, we beg you Lord, and come, so that we may escape through Your protection and be saved by Your help from the dangers that threaten us because of our sins. You live and reign for ever and ever. Amen

Week 2
Let us pray. O Father, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Your only begotten Son, that through His coming, we may be made worthy to serve you with pure souls. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Week 3
Let us pray. We humbly beg You, O Lord, to listen to our prayers; and by the grace of Your coming bring light into our darkened minds. You live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Week 4
Let us pray. Stir up Your might, we pray You O Lord, and come; rescue us through Your great strength so that salvation, which has been hindered by our sins, may be hastened by the grace of Your gentle mercy. You live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

This article was excerpted from:

Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany in the Domestic Church

by Peter & Catherine Fournier

This is an illustrated book of wonderful activities for children and families to better understand and celebrate the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seasons. A large size, spiral bound volume, this is perfect for families to learn together and share the joys of this happy time of the liturgical year. Filled with a variety of family activities, saint’s celebrations and crafts, this book has something for everyone in the family.

Family activities include making an advent wreath, a Jesse Tree with all its symbols, cloth Nativity figures, words for 21 advent and Christmas songs, recipes for special cakes and breads and more. Also included are stories of special saints for the season with activities and prayers. Finally, it offers numerous craft activities including cross stitching Christmas patterns, gift boxes, table-top and Christmas tree Angels, table runners, and many coloring pages. It also includes a helpful index.

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