Tis the season to begin Advent
The Advent wreath is brought out starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas.
Now that the Thanksgiving holiday and feast have passed and we have been forcefully faced with the arrival of winter weather this past week, we welcome the new season of Christmas. Along with it come many memories, folklore and tradition. Most of it rooted in various religions through symbolism and rich colors. Mostly those traditional colors are of red and green.
The Christmas wreath is one of the most recognized items after the Christmas tree. We hang them on our doors, our walls, around lights and on the fronts of our cars, but the most traditional of the wreaths is that of the Advent wreath.
The Advent wreath has been around for centuries, but many historians cannot quite pinpoint its original roots. Some say it has been around as long as the days of Christ’s time on earth, others say that it appeared as recent at the 19th century. Whatever the facts may be with this symbol, one thing is consistent - it appears during the holidays during the most holy of seasons.
The Advent wreath is brought out starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is a wreath of evergreens, pinecones, holly, ribbons and colors of red berries and flowers. Along with the wreath itself are four candles. Three of them are violet while the fourth is rose. In some religions there are four red candles and a central white one symbolizing the Christmas holiday as in Britain. In the Orthodox religion, they have opted for six candles for an extended advent season.
Each and every part of the advent wreath is symbolic in its own way. The wreath of greens itself represent enduring life and the circular form represents God’s eternity and unity. Evergreen branches represent that eternal life of our soul. The holly, with its sharp pointed leaves and red berries represent that of the crown of thorns and the blood droplets resulting from Christ’s wounds.
Within this wreath are four candles that are lit during the main meal of the day. One is lit during the first week and another is lit with each passing week thereafter until the final one on the last Sunday before Christmas.
The first is called the prophet’s candle, signifying the hope of Jesus’ coming. The second one is known as the Bethlehem candle to signify the city of Christ’s birth. The third one is the rose-colored candle known as the shepherd’s candle in which to rejoice. The fourth and final one is known as the angel’s candle symbolizing the angelic proclamation of joy at Christ’s birth.
Each of the candles is set in a blue candleholder within the wreath. The color of blue symbolizes the virgin Mary who bore and brought Christ forth into the world on Christmas. As each candle is lit during the preparation of Christmas, the light from the candles grows brighter and brighter. On Christmas day, all of the candles are replaced with white ones to indicate our time of preparation is over and to enter a period of great joy.
The Advent wreath is truly a wonderful representation of how we should view the holiday season and to place a better perspective into its purpose. It is not a time to be greedy and try to obtain more and more material items for our senseless pleasures. It is not a time to get caught up in the commercialization of getting the next best thing. It is not a time of enduring the stresses of the season that we put upon ourselves. Above all of that, the true meaning of Christmas is celebrating the birth of Christ, celebrating all the things that we do have and enjoying the people who are very dear and mean the most to us.
It is not material wealth and display that create the season, but the glow in our hearts that seems to strengthen during this time of year that makes us feel a sense of elation, even when at times, we are not quite sure why. It is the spirit of Christ coming through each and everyone of us to make the world a little better place to live.
As you journey through the holidays this year, take time to enjoy what is present. Take the time to smell the evergreens and feel the warmth of a flame’s glow. Enjoy the heart of another and help the ones that are less fortunate. It is these things that make the season the magical time of the year that it can be.
As you hang the wreath on the door this year, made fresh from the products of your garden, remember the symbolic meaning of the wreath itself and how it reflects this holiday. As you lay the Advent wreath on your dinner table and begin to light the candles over a short prayer, recognize the true meaning behind its beauty.
You will find, with the resurrection of some of life’s traditions, that you get back to the roots of Christmas and be able to truly enjoy it once again. Forget the stress of shopping and baking and spending and going in debt over "stuff" you fail to use three months later and get back into the real meaning. You will find a peace and serenity that you forgot existed during this time of year and once again be able to truly enjoy the season.
Whether you hang a wreath or have one for Advent, you can create it from your own garden and add some of yourself to the traditions of the past. Start this holiday off right, as tomorrow is the beginning of Advent and an enlightening season.