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The thought of the month of December brings to our minds the white snow, vacation and, of course, Christmas. Christmas is literally synonymous with December and is celebrated with joy and love not just on the 25th but for the whole of the month. The days leading to Christmas are called the Advent season. To be exact, it starts four weeks prior to December 25th of every year.
You probably might wonder what is advent? It is derived from the Latin word adventus, which means 'arrival'. Now, here comes the connection. It has been a tradition to wait for the arrival of Jesus Christ into the world through his birth with penance and prayers. The 4-week period is a preparation to receive the Lord into the hearts and to know the true meaning of Christmas. During this period, a tool called advent wreath is used during the prayer time. Let's get to know more about the wreath.
What Is An Advent Wreath?
The advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches. The evergreens usually used are laurel, pine, holly, yew, or cedar, and prickly leaves. Pine cones, nuts, or seedpods are also used to decorate the wreath. One can find an arrangement of four-five candles on the wreath. Each and every minute decoration on the wreath has its own meaning relating to Christmas.
The wreath can also be made at home by involving the children to collect the leaves and the other decor. This brings a sense of involvement in them for the Christmas season.
The circular shape of the wreath represents eternity or the never-ending love of the Lord for humanity. Laurel signifies victory; pine, holly, and yew for immortality; cedar for strength and healing. The prickly leaves are the thorns that were placed on the head of Jesus at the time of the crucifixion. The pine cones, nuts, or seedpods stand for life and resurrection. Finally, the candles, the most important of all the things in the wreath, have a great significance.
The candles are traditionally four in number - three purple ones, and one rose. Overtime, some people started using five candles - three purple ones, one rose, and one white. Some wreaths also use blue colour in place of purple. Purple is a liturgical colour that denotes the time of prayer and sacrifice. Rose is generally used to represent joy in the Christian faith and the white, as always, represents purity. In this case, purity of Jesus Christ.
Each candle stands for 1000 years and so that makes it 4000 years in total. The number signifies that the humanity has waited four thousand years for the arrival of the Saviour right from the time of Adam and Eve as per the Holy Bible. So, when each candle is lit, it denotes the passage of time until the fifth one is lit (in case of five candles in the wreath) on Christmas Eve.
The deeper meanings of the candles have been given out below. Each candle stands for one week of the Advent season.
1st Candle - A Purple Candle - Candle Of Hope Or Prophecy Candle
The first purple candle is lit in the first Advent Sunday. It reminds the people of the prediction that was made regarding the birth of Jesus Christ. It brings hope to the humanity that the Almighty is sending His Son to redeem the people from sins.
2nd Candle - Next Purple Candle - Candle Of Preparation Or Bethlehem Candle
The next purple candle is lit on the second Sunday of the Advent season. It is called the Bethlehem candle to denote the journey that Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem before the birth of Christ. It also represents the manger that was prepared for the event. In this second week of Advent, the minds of the people prepare themselves to welcome Christ into the world.
3rd Candle - Rose Candle - Candle Of Joy Or Shepherd’s Candle
The third Sunday of Advent is called the Gaudete Sunday. The rose candle is lit on this day. This third week of Advent is the time to rejoice, as the birth of the Lord is nearing and as per the Bible, the shepherds who were grazing near Bethlehem were the first ones to receive the news of the upcoming event from the angels. That is why it is also called the Shepherd's candle.
4th Candle - Third Purple Candle - Candle Of Love Or Angel’s Candle
The last purple candle is lit on the last Sunday of Advent, that is, the Sunday prior to Christmas. This candle is for the angels who spread the news regarding the birth of Jesus Christ.
5th Candle - White Candle - The Christ Candle
This is lit on the Christmas Eve or on Christmas to denote the birth of Jesus. It is white so as to represent the purity of the Lord.
The way in which the candles are lit is interesting. It is usually done during the dinner time. First, a prayer is told by the head of the house and that is the Father. The youngest child lights the first candle on the first Sunday. It is blown after dinner. Similarly, the oldest child lights the first as well as the second purple candle on the next Sunday. Mother takes her turn on the third Sunday with the lighting of previous two purple candles and the rose candle. Finally, the Father lights the last purple candle along with the other candles on the last Advent Sunday. Everyone together lights up the white candle, if present.
In a nutshell, the lighting of the candles in the wreath denotes the passage of time. It is the waiting period for the people of Christian faith to ready their minds for the big day.