Many Christians celebrate the Advent season either through an Advent calendar or through the Advent celebrations at their church, sometimes both. But, do you know the meaning behind the Advent candles and why they are lit in that way? Here, we will discuss that and several other meanings behind the Advent celebration.
Depending on the way you and your church celebrate the Advent season, you may use four or five candles. The biggest difference between these two traditions is the lack of a white candle that is lit on Christmas day. No one tradition is right or better than the other, this is simply based on preference.
The tradition began with a Minister in Germany making the first Advent wreath out of the wheel from a cart. He placed twenty red candles around the outer ring of the wheel to be lit on weekdays throughout December, and four white candles to be lit on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day.
Today, we have simplified the tradition a bit by paring it down to just four or five candles. When using four candles, there are three purple and one pink. When using five, there are three purple, one pink, and one white. The three purple candles symbolize hope, peace, and love. While the pink represents Joy, and the white represents the birth of Christ.
The candle of hope is lit on the first Sunday of December, or the fourth Sunday from Christmas. Lighting this candle represents the celebration of hope found in Jesus Christ. Sometimes, this candle is also referred to as the “Prophecy Candle” as a remembrance for Isaiah and the other prophets who prophesized the birth of Jesus.
The candle of peace, similar to the candle of hope, represents the celebration of peace we are able to find in Jesus Christ. This candle is it on the second Sunday of December, or on the third Sunday from Christmas. This candle is sometimes referred to as the “Candle of Bethlehem” which serves to remind us of the journey Joseph and Mary took to deliver the baby Jesus.
You may have noticed that we skipped over the candle of love, but don’t worry, we’ll get there.
The candle of joy is the only pink candle out of the bunch. This candle is lit on the third Sunday of December, or the second Sunday from Christmas. This Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday. The pinkish-rose color of this candle holds significance to the Christian church because this pink hue is the liturgical color for joy.
Gaudete Sunday is always celebrated on the third Sunday of the Advent season, which can fall anywhere between December 11 and December 17. No matter the date, Gaudete Sunday is always celebrated on the third Sunday. The readings for Gaudete Sunday focus on rejoicing in the Lord in the days before the birth of Christ.
If you are celebrating the Advent season with four candles, this will be the final candle you light. This candle is lit on the fourth Sunday of December, the fourth and final before Christmas Day. This candle is sometimes referred to as the “Angel’s Candle” and symbolizes the love we have in Christ.
If you are celebrating the season of Advent with five candles, you will light one final, white candle on Christmas Day in celebration of Jesus’ birth.
You and your church have a lot of input on the way your Advent wreath, which is sometimes called an Advent crown, is decorated. Traditionally, the wreath is made from twisted evergreen stems and adorned with holly leaves and berries. The weekly advent celebration will likely be accompanied by a Bible reading or devotional.