The Symbolism of Wreaths

Wreaths symbolize eternity because they are in circular form, without a beginning or an end, so to speak. Before Christ came wreaths had long been in use, as symbols of fertility, victory, and the like. The first Christians kept the habit of adornment with wreaths but with more significance than ever, as various kinds came to represent the various aspects of the Christian life and the life of Our Lord and His Mother: Bay for the Passion of Christ, not just for mourning as before, the evergreen for eternity because it lasts so long without withering [fidelity and God unchanging], the holly and ivy and the Passion, but used at Christmas time, and the pomegranate, as seen above, which symbolizes the Church, because of the fruits almost countless seeds, and for the hope we place in the Resurrection. A special form of wreath is the Advent Wreath, lit each evening by a designated member of the family:

§§§§----- The Advent Wreath -----§§§§

The wreath is very simple in design and readily assembled. All you need for materials are evergreen swigs, whatever variety you have available, usually fir or spruce, a 4-candle holder in a wreath shape, and 4 candles, 3 of purple and 1 of rose or pink, 1 each for the four weeks of Advent. The holder can be placed in a shallow platter containing some water. Place the candles in the holder securely, then drape the boughs of fir around the holder, twining and interlacing them. The water should be only enough to keep the underside of the greens fresh. The wreath should be placed on a suitable table set aside for this purpose and which has been draped with a pretty cloth, usually white, lace of plain. This all there is to the assembly. Advent is a season penance, but we live in a celebratory culture where the Christmas festivities begin almost Thanksgiving evening. Since traditional Catholics generally do not put up the family tree until just before Christmas, they sometimes add some decoration to the wreath in Advent colors, which are purple for penance and rose-pink for the third week, which begins with Gaudete Sunday, when flowers are permitted on the altar, for this once during Advent. The spirit of penance during Advent is not the same as that for Lent and some joy is permitted. Gaudete means "rejoice" and takes its name from the first word of the Introit for that Sunday. There is but one week to go and soonKing's birthday shall arrive. These decorations may be little colored balls, ribbons or berries. Most families keep the wreath plain. Below is a sample wreath arrangement which is somewhat elaborate. Simple greens and the candles are sufficient.


The wreath should assembled before the evening of the First Sunday of Advent. The father or someone taking his place if he cannot be there, reads the blessing, before the first purple candle is lit:


Father: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who hath made Heaven and earth.

Father: Let us pray.
O God, by Whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Through Christ Our Lord.

All: Amen.

(Sprinkles wreath with holy water.)

The father or leader reads the prayer or the chosen Scripture passage [usually from Genesis for week one, Isaiah and Luke and John for the others] for the first week, then holds up the youngest child to light the first candle, which is also lighted all through the week when the family gathers in the room with the wreath. Two candles are lighted by the oldest child the second week, three the third by the mother, four the fourth by the father. You may select the Advent Sunday Collects from the traditional Roman Missal.

In families where there are many children it is impossible to satisfy all who want to light candles since there are only four Sundays in Advent. They can take turns lighting the candles during the week. They are never lighted unless an adult is present. Every week as another candle is lit, the light around the wreath grows bigger which means that the birthday of the Light of the World is coming soon.  Christmas Day many families place a white candle, for Christ, in the center of the wreath.