Origins and Meaning of Wreaths
The Advent wreath is an old German tradition that has gained much popularity in the last few years. Most Christian homes and communities practice this custom during the Advent season. This sacramental is rich in meaning, is easy to implement and can either be simple, costing little, or very elaborate, costing more, handmade or storebought, with fresh greenery, or permanent greens.
The Advent wreath is a wreath, or circle, of evergreens, made in various sizes. It is either suspended from the ceiling by ribbons (preferably purple) or placed on a table. The devotion is usually incorporated during the family meal, or during family night prayers. Fastened to the wreath are four candles standing upright, at equal distances. These candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three of the candles are purple, reminding us of the penitential nature of the season. A rose or pink candle is lit for the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday. The name is taken from the entrance antiphon or Introit "Rejoice (gaudete) in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice." It is reminding us that the end of Advent is almost here, and we can hardly contain our joy.
The wreath should be in a circle, a symbol of eternity, and a reminder that God has no beginning nor end. The evergreen is a symbol of eternal life and a reminder that God is immutable or unchangeable.
The appearance of the actual Advent wreath is varied—everyone has their own interpretation of the Advent wreath. The look of your family's wreath depends on how much time and creativity you have to devote. Your family can create their own special wreath, or add personal touches to a store-bought wreath.
- From CatholicCulture.org. Click for more information and how to make a wreath :
Meaning of Candles
Various meanings have been assigned to the four candles. One interpretation has each candle representing 4000 years, the Biblical time between Adam and Eve and the coming of Christ. In another interpretation, the first candle represents the patriarchs, the second the prophets, the third reminds us of John the Baptist, and the fourth of Mary, the mother of Jesus. They have also been described as the prophets’ candle, the Bethlehem Candle, the shepherds’ candle, and the angels’ candle.
A fifth white candle in the center representing Christ can also be used. It is lit on Christmas Eve as a remembrance of Christ coming into the world. Sometimes, all the other candles of the wreath are removed and replaced with white candles on Christmas. (from http://catholicexchange.com/history-advent-wreath
Click to visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for more resources on Advent.