We were having a family discussion about the meaning of the Advent candles and came up with differing opinions on the “names” of each of the candles. After a bit of discussion I consulted two experts – Google and my dad. What I found from both was there are differing beliefs on the meanings and traditions of the Advent candles.
Advent means “the coming” and was originally celebrating the second coming of Jesus. The four Sundays before Christmas are marked by four candles. The color for three of the candles is typically purple, which is the color associated with royalty. The third of the four Advent candles is often pink. A white “Christ candle” is often lit on Christmas day.
The wreath tradition came from northern Europe where the circle represented ongoing life and the candles were comfort from the darkest time of the year, looking forward to spring. Some traditions add items of symbolism to the wreath.
The usual order and meaning of the candles are to represent Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, but there are other traditions. One I thought was interesting:
- The first represents Isaiah and other prophets in the bible that predicted the coming of Jesus.
- The second represents the bible.
- The third represents Mary, the mother of Jesus. Which may be the reason this candle is often pink.
- The fourth represents John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, who told the people in Israel to get ready for Jesus’ teaching.
Another tradition held the weeks of Advent as the Prophecy Candle/Hope, Bethlehem Candle/Preparation, Shepherd Candle/Joy, Angel Candle/Love, and finally the Christ Candle.
As a way to mark “the coming”, people use an Advent calendar or card with 25 small doors that open. I remember one we used had chocolate candy behind each door. I think my Christmas came on December 4 that year. Well, at least that was the day my candies were all gone.
I “hope” you had a great first week of Advent. It may provide you some “peace” that you have more weeks of Advent to come. I “joy”-fully close this writing with my “love.”