While the exact origin of the Advent wreath is uncertain, one thing is undeniable: the use of this symbol is a longstanding tradition in our Catholic Faith, dating back to at least the 17th century.
As we progressively light the candles throughout the Advent season, we acknowledge God’s coming through reflection, prayer, and hope. We make our own private vigil while awaiting the Light of the World.
Not only do we recall His first coming, we also await His second coming, when He will judge the living and the dead.
Significance of the Advent Wreath’s Shape and Color
Since circles have no beginning and no end, the circular shape of the Advent wreath symbolizes eternal life in Christ. The wreath holds four candles, which are lit one-by-one over the four weeks of the Advent season. Generally, three are violet (purple) and one is rose-colored, each representing 1,000 years. Added together, the four candles symbolize the 4,000 years that humanity waited for the Savior.
Violet is a liturgical color symbolizing penance, sacrifice, and prayer. During the first, second, and fourth weeks of Advent, we light violet candles as a reminder of the preparation of heart and mind undertaken during this season, which was traditionally known as a “little Lent.”
The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. On this day, we celebrate that our wait is almost over. Since rose is the liturgical color used to signify joy, we light the rose candle on the Third Sunday of Advent as we rejoice in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah.
Materials Used in the Advent Wreath
Advent wreaths were traditionally made of evergreen branches, which have long been a symbol of the constancy and faithfulness we aspire to as Christians. Evergreens flourish during every season, remaining unchanged through the harshness of winter. We are called to live our Faith this same way—with holy confidence and fortitude.
Holly, with its prickly leaves, represents the Crown of Thorns. Pinecones represent the Resurrection, because they contain the seeds of a new tree and therefore of new life.
If you don’t have an Advent wreath yet, you can order yours from The Catholic Company! One of our favorites is this beautiful (and affordable!) White Poinsettia Advent Wreath. While maintaining the traditional elements of the Advent wreath, this stunning piece has beautiful gold accents and incorporates white poinsettias, giving it a festive look. Order yours today from The Catholic Company and receive it in time for Advent!