When you celebrate a countdown, typically, you begin from the number of days left until the big day. With a birthday, a vacation, an anniversary, or the first day of school, people select a day and begin their highly anticipated countdown. One of the biggest celebrations across the world is celebrated in the exact opposite fashion – it is not a countdown; it is a count up.
Advent is the coming that celebrates the birth of Jesus. Each day of Advent is preparation for Christmas Day, which is Jesus’ birthday. To prepare means to understand and appreciate the real meaning of Christmas. While Advent has become a materialistic extension of the Christmas season, in many countries, it is actually meant to represent a time of gratitude, hope and serve as a reset for our hearts and minds. During the season of Advent, Christians are supposed to remember the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross for our sins.
Therefore aside from the Advent diversion, big retailers have created, a true Christian celebration of Advent looks like setting up a nativity scene, enjoying special holiday foods, remembering your neighbors, encouraging thankfulness, listening to sacred music, attending advent services, remembering your history, reading an advent series, being patient, and lighting advent candles.
The four candles of Advent and the wreath are the original symbol of celebration. The Advent wreath is used to symbolically commemorate newness, eternal life, and the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is important to remember that Advent traditions vary from country to country. For example, some Christians light five advent candles. The fifth candle is meant to represent Christ himself. Another example is the color of Advent candles – they also vary amongst countries.
Nonetheless, the overall celebration of Advent at its core is about the coming. To better understand Advent and celebrate the history, let’s dive into the frequently Googled questions about Advent.
What do the four candles of Advent symbolize?
The four candles symbolize hope, love, joy, and peace.
Themes are tied to the meaning of each candle. The first purple candle is the Prophecy Candle, and it symbolizes hope and God’s forgiveness toward man. It can also symbolize the expectation of the coming of the Messiah. The second purple candle symbolizes faith and reminds Catholics about the experience Joseph and Mary had in Bethlehem. The third candle is pink and represents love and the joy that the birth of Jesus Christ brought to the world. Traditionally, this candle also represents Gaudette Sunday – which is when Christians take a break from Advent fasting to experience joy.
The last purple candle is the Angel’s candle and symbolizes the peace and justice that the angels and Christ bring to the world. Here’s the variance we mentioned earlier – in some denominations, the fourth candle represents purity, and some people use a fifth candle and refer to it as the Christ candle. Typically, the fifth candle is lit on Christmas to remind Christians of the light Jesus brings to the world and his followers.
If a fifth candle is used, the birth of Christ is represented. The candle reminds Christians to follow him because he will always be our true light, no matter what darkness we’re experiencing.
What is the advent wreath?
The advent wreath has two names – wreath and advent crown. There is no concrete evidence to prove the wreath’s origins. History points to several connections between the wreath and candles. Some historians believe the wreath represents the earth, other historians believe it signifies continuous life, and others lean towards the idea of unity.
How should you light advent candles?
Typically, you should light candles in the order of faith, hope, love, and end with peace; however, if you’re using a fifth candle, you’ll end with the candle representing Christ.
Most traditional lightings are accompanied by a Bible reading, devotional time, and prayers. For visualizers, the lighting will look like this:
On the first Sunday of Advent, light the first purple candle. On the second Sunday of Advent, light two purple candles. On the third Sunday of Advent light, the two purple candles and the one rose candle. On the fourth Sunday of Advent, light all of the candles.
If you’re celebrating Advent with a fifth candle, this candle is lit on Christmas Day.
The length of burning varies, but it is important to recognize that the usage of the candle marks the days and reflects the passing of days leading up to Christmas. In most cases, families burn the candle in the evening at dinner. Some candles have markings to encourage burning for a specific amount of time – this way, it is never too much or too little.
What color are the advent candles?
As we’ve noted, over time, the colors of the advent candles have changed over time. Two of the original colors are purple and pink. The purple candle represents repentance and the confession of one’s sins. The pink candle symbolizes rejoice and love.
Moreover, in the present-day, advent candles are now typically white or cream. Christians still follow the traditional lighting instructions, but they’ve adopted a more basic visual approach.
What is the significance of lighting a candle when someone dies?
Lighting a candle is one way to show that you remember someone and a metaphorical way to view difficult seasons of life. When people experience grief, oftentimes, they feel like they are literally in a dark place, and the light from the candle represents the God that never leaves your side. Lighting a candle is the symbol of holy illumination of the spirit of truth and signifies unconditional hope.
Pope Benedict XVI said it best, “It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.” Honoring Advent means slowing down and preparing our hearts for Christmas. Christians should use Advent as a way to recapture what they are seeking and put the busy times into an intentional perspective.
Advent is a gift that, at its core, is celebrated through the lighting of advent candles to help us better connect with God and his message of love. Each day is a miracle of life and resetting our internal watch to God’s time is the best gift we can give to ourselves and those that we love.
As you light your advent candles and reconnect, relish in the joy in anticipation and the pricelessness of hope.