Advent & Christmas Traditions: The Advent Wreath

Advent Wreath

For Catholics, Advent is a liturgical season of four weeks in anticipation of Christmas day, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, Light of the World. This title of Jesus is significant for Advent because this season is associated with the time of darkness that the world endured in anticipation of the coming Savior.


The Catholic Bible passages closely associated with Advent are found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah:

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Isaiah 9:2).

And then a few verses later,

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

The Four Gospels, especially the Gospel of Luke, records the fulfillment of this Old Testament prophesy in the birth of Jesus Christ.


The Church's liturgical season draws us into a time of watchfulness, expectation, eagerness, and penance before the joy of Christmas day bursts forth.  This spiritual journey is just like the holy men and women of old, and indeed all the world, endured before the revelation and Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

In fact, Advent is the start of a new liturgical year. And we start our new year by going back to the beginning: waiting for the imminent birth of the promised Messiah.

The Church "encourages us, during Advent, to take the shepherd-folk for our guides, and imagine ourselves traveling with them, at the dead of night, straining our eyes towards that chink of light which streams out, we know, from the cave of Bethlehem."


One of the most important ways parishes and families mark this time of waiting and penance (also known as "little Lent") is through the Advent wreath. The Advent wreath holds four candles which are lit on the Sunday of each of the four weeks of Advent.

There are three violet (purple) candles and one rose (pink) candle, each representing 1,000 years. Added together, the four candles symbolize the 4,000 years that humanity waited for their Savior.

Purple is the liturgical color of the Advent season (the same as Lent), which represents penance. The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. On this day we celebrate that our waiting for Christmas is almost over. Rose is a liturgical color that is used to signify joy, so we light the rose candle on the third Sunday of Advent.

There are many styles of Advent wreaths and candleholders available. The traditional circular wreath made of evergreens carries the added symbolization of eternal life in Christ.

Advent 2014


The Advent wreath is marked by special prayers and reflections that the whole family can participate in together. There are many Advent prayer books that will help you with this tradition. There are books with prayers for the blessing of the Advent wreath, and special prayers for each Sunday of Advent that can be recited as each candle is lit.

Here is an example from The Essential Advent and Christmas Handbook, one of our most popular sellers, taken from the second week of Advent:

Parent: Lord, you are the light and hope of our world.

Children: Let it be done to me according to your Word.

Parent: God of the angels and of all humankind, we have placed our hopes in your hands. We say, with Mary, "Let it be done with me according to your Word." Like Mary, we await the joy to come when your Son shall be born in our hearts.

Children: Let it be done to me according to your Word.

Parent: May our faith always be a light to others.

Children: Amen.


There are other Advent prayer books that also include daily Advent prayers and reflections, such as the popular In Conversation with God series, as well as the Advent and Christmas Wisdom series that includes prayers and reflections from some of the saints such as St. Francis of Assisi, Pope St. John Paul II, St. Therese of Lisieux, and others. Any of these Advent prayer books would be a beautiful accompaniment to your Advent wreath tradition.