5 Beeswax Advent candle set from Happy Flame
November 22, 2023

The meaning and history of Advent candles


Sociologist Émile Durkheim used the term ‘collective effervescence’ to describe the positive mood we feel when participating in activities that bring collective joy and make us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. 

Advent season is one such celebration that marks the coming Christmas and a ritual steeped in tradition, symbolism and collective celebration. Lasting roughly four weeks, the weeks of Advent is a time of candlelight, reflection, and expectation. The name Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’ – and in this case, Advent is a time of anticipation and preparation for Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. 

While Advent traditions vary by country, the heart of Advent is mostly the same across cultures. Driven by the element of fire, the advent candle ritual brings together four (or five) candles, lit separately on each Sunday leading up to Christmas. In most traditions, lighting the candles is done collectively as a family, community or church and will often be used to reflect on hope, faith, joy, peace, and Light. While the colour of these candles can vary, it is common for the first, second, and fourth are purple candles, while the third is rose-coloured, red, or pink candle. Each candle has a specific meaning. 


The first candle, a purple one, is often called the 'Prophecy Candle' or 'Hope Candle,' pays homage to the prophets, particularly Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. It symbolises the anticipation of the coming Messiah.

The second purple advent candle, known as the 'Bethlehem Candle,' represents faith and commemorates Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem.

The third Advent candle, the 'Shepherd's Candle,' symbolises joy. Its rose colour represents the world's joy at the birth of Jesus and marks the midpoint of Advent on the third Sunday of Advent.

The fourth Advent candle, the 'Angel's Candle,' is the last purple one, and we light this candle to signify peace. It marks the final week of Advent and serves as a reminder of the angel's message, "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men" (Luke 2:14). 


Finally, we have the fifth white candle, the ‘Christ candle’. While not every Advent ritual incorporates this candle, when they do, it is illuminated on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, marking the culmination of our anticipation of the birth of Jesus. As we light this candle, we commemorate the Light that radiates amid darkness—an emblem of our hope, a harbinger of peace, and a cause of joy.

Do you use a wreath with the candles?

Another part of the season of Advent candle tradition is to use a wreath around the candles. That is, you place the candles in the center of the wreath. In the first week of Advent gather green folliage and create a circle creating a beautiful display. Wonderful examples of advent candle wreaths are found in many churches, worth a visit on the first Sunday of Advent In the Christmas season.

Do the Advent candles need to be large candles?

Although we supply an Advent pillar candle set, it is common for home use to use Advent taper candles. These candle sets are tall, thin candle sticks and make a lovely simple advent wreath candle for the holiday season.

Happy Flame makes the Advent candle set. You can see the set here.

We also have Advent Countdown to Christmas candles which are available here in our online store.

We have a blog about Candlemas, do you know about this day of celebration?

Wikipedia has a little more information here online.