Advent candles- traditions and how to use them

We love creating our Advent candle sets. I will always remember my mum setting up the Advent candles in a wreath, 5 candles in all. Each night my twin brother and I would rush to be the one to light the candle each night!  My Mum worked out a system real quick to stop the squabbling ;)

It is a tradition that continues even in this busy world of ours. We feel using candles ensures it is a special time that brings the family together.

What is Advent and why Advent candles?

Advent means "Coming" and it is a different kind of count down to Christmas.  Four Sundays before Christmas the first candle gets lit (we found dinner time is good).  There are two types of sets generally being used  -  3 purple and 1 pink or 4 red candles.  This depends a little on the background.  Christians have used advent candles since the Middle Ages, but the colour of the candles only became common use in the 1820s.  

Mostly (in my experience) the colour of candles used are three purple and one pink, whilst those from German descent and Steiner use red for all four candles.

I often get asked why the 3 purple and one pink.  This again is a family tradition for me, and I can still hear my Mum telling us every Advent.  Pink is for the 2nd Sunday as this candle is to honour Maria, mother of Jesus.  This is my tradition, other sources interpret the colours different, the first 3 candles that are to be used are purple and represent hope and the last one is pink to represent joy.  Then of course there is the tradition to use red candles only.

It does not really matter in what order the candles are lit or really what colours they are, what is important is to slow the crazy race to Christmas down a bit and we have found candles do this very well.  You can allocate a special meaning to the pink candle to fit in with your family tradition.  

This is what happens over the 4 Sundays.  The first Sunday 1 candle gets lit and if you want every day for a little while (this first candle has to last 4 weeks).  Some only light the candles on Sundays others a little every week night, again depending on your tradition or the tradition you are creating.

On the second Sunday the first and second candles get lit, the third Sunday the first, second and third candles get lit and on the fourth Sunday all candles get lit.  

Then there is the fifth candle on the plate  -  the one in the centre.  This one gets lit on Christmas eve or Christmas day to celebrate Christmas has arrived.  This fifth candle is optional as not all traditions include this candle.  

There is nothing like a wreath of candles on the table during the lead up to Christmas, I used to make a different wreath each year, but when I run out of time I simply use some greenery from the garden (make sure it lays flat) on a large faceted crystal glass flat plate (found in an op-shop) and place the candles on this plate (I put a little water in the dish) .  Every week I change the greenery to freshen it up.  If no greenery is available some green tinsel will also do the trick.  

Every year the start of Advent changes (a bit like Easter).  So if you Google "when does Advent start in.... (year).  You will find the right date. 

Our advent candles are here.