By Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, www.revlisad.com
First, a Little History
“Research by Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor, as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century. During Advent, children at the mission school Rauhes Haus, founded by Wichern in Hamburg, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday and Saturday during Advent. On Sundays, a large white candle was lit.
The custom gained ground among Protestant churches in Germany and evolved into the smaller wreath with four or five candles known today. Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America.” – Wikipedia
Ideas for Creating Your Own Advent Wreath
I’m a strong advocate for grace and creativity in Christian practices, especially practices that are relatively new. (Yes, a practice from the 1800’s is relatively new given Christians continue practices dating back thousands of years.)
With that said, now’s a great time to create an Advent Wreath for your home. Yes, you could buy an Advent Wreath. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you could also create one. Each choice will be intentional, adding to its meaning. The act of creating the wreath will be a prayer in itself. The point of a Christian practice is to help you connect with God. What will help you connect?
Modern Advent Wreaths often use four purple or blue candles plus a white candle in the center. The purple/blue candles can represent many things- repentance, longing, waiting, sovereignty, night, etc. The white candle is often called the Christ Candle, representing Jesus, and isn’t lit till Christmas Eve. Sometimes, one of the purple/blue candles is replaced with a pink candle to represent joy.
Some Advent Wreaths use other colors. The “original” used red and white. What would it be like for the color of the candles to get lighter as you make your way to the white Christ Candle? What if the Christ Candle were gold or silver?
There’s no need to stress over authenticity or getting it right. Symbols are elastic. What colors will you choose? What do they represent for you?
Tapered candles will show the passage of time. Pillar candles are also beautiful. You could even use simple votive candles or tea lights. Be sure to use the needed candle sticks, platforms, or holders for your candles to burn safely.
NUMBER OF CANDLES
The “original” wreath used well over 20 candles, lighting one a day from the beginning of Advent to Christmas Eve. This connects that wreath to the popular Advent calendars or Countdown calendars. Most modern wreaths use 5 candles. One for each week of Advent plus the Christ Candle. How many will you use? Why?
Advent Wreaths are often shaped as a circle, a symbol of eternity. I’ve seen “wreaths” shaped like a spiral, a cross, or with the candles in a row like a path. What shape will you choose and why?
- Fresh or artificial greenery. Evergreens, holly, and ivy are often used. How about poinsettia? What do you have in your yard that could be used?
- Use figures from your nativity set to decorate your Advent Wreath. How about an empty manger in place of the Christ Candle? Replace it with the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve and/or place the baby in the manger. I have an olive wood carving from Israel of a pregnant woman I love to use. On Christmas Eve, it’s replaced with a carving of a woman holding a baby.
What other ideas do you have? Be sure to post your ideas plus a picture of your Advent Wreath in the comments! Don’t forget the explanation of why you chose what you did.
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