Advent, Advent, a little light is burning: For many of us, the Advent wreath is an integral part of the pre-Christmas period, like the Christmas cookies. A candle is lit on every Sunday in Advent - a custom that is known almost everywhere in the world. But how did this tradition actually come about? What is the meaning of the Christmas wreath, and why does the wreath have four candles? A little story about the popular Advent arrangement.
Where does the Advent wreath come from? Who invented it?
The Advent wreath tradition originally comes from northern Germany and can be traced back to the 19th century. A Protestant theologian named Johann Hinrich Wichern ran the "Rauhe Haus" in Hamburg, a home for children and young people without parents.
Christmas played an important role in the orphanage. The children asked the pastor every day: "When is Christmas?". In order to make the waiting easier for his protégés, Johann Hinrich Wichern made the world's first Christmas wreath in 1839. However, this one looked different from the wreaths we know today.
The theologian took the wooden wheel of a carriage and fastened candles to it. Four large white candles for Sundays and 19 small red ones for the other weekdays of Advent. He hung the wagon wheel from the ceiling of the prayer room and lit a candle each day of Advent. In this way, the children learned to count and at the same time knew how many days they still had to wait until Christmas Eve.
What is the meaning of the Advent wreath?
Over time, the Advent wreath with four candles that is common today has developed. Its meaning has also changed over the years. Christmas wreaths are no longer just a tool to count down the days until Christmas Eve.
The round shape of the wreath - which has neither beginning nor end - refers to infinity. In Christian thought, the circular shape also symbolizes the resurrection. The green fir branches are a symbol of life - fir trees also bloom in the winter months and stand for the hope that nature will come to life again in spring.
The candles symbolize the light that Jesus brought into the world. The increasing brightness is a symbol for the increasing anticipation of Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Exciting, isn't it?
What was originally used to decorate the Advent wreath?
As mentioned at the beginning, Pastor Wichern's Christmas wreath consisted of a wooden wagon wheel on which several white and red candles were attached. At that time, the wreath was not decorated with fir green, but with pine cones and a wide white ribbon.
It wasn't until 1860 that people began to decorate the wreath with fir branches. And so, over the years, the Advent arrangement that we know today was created: a wreath with fir greenery, four candles and a red ribbon.
Why are there four candles on the Advent wreath?
The Wichernkranz enjoyed increasing popularity in Germany. Due to their size, the wreaths were initially only found on church ceilings. There was simply not enough space in the houses and flats. And so it came about that people gave up the weekday candles. Four candles remained - one for each Sunday in Advent.
Each candle has its own meaning. The first candle of Advent is a symbol of the prophecy of Jesus' coming. The second represents peace and the birth of Jesus. The third candle is a symbol of joy, while the fourth symbolizes the love of God.
Did you know that the number of candles also stands for the four cardinal points and symbolizes 4,000 years? According to the belief of the time, mankind had to wait exactly this time in order to experience salvation after a sin.
When do you put up the Advent wreath?
You can set up the Christmas wreath a few days before the start of Advent or on the first Sunday of Advent at the latest. By the way: The beginning of the Advent season varies from year to year - it starts on November 27th at the earliest and on December 3rd at the latest.
Which candle sizes do you use for an Advent wreath?
The candles should be about one and a half times as high as the Advent arrangement. If your wreath is ten centimetres high, the candles are welcome to be 15 centimetres tall. In addition, sets with different candle sizes are available - due to the different sizes, the candles burn almost evenly.
Which green is suitable for an Advent wreath?
Anything you like is allowed! For the classic version, you wrap the Advent wreath with branches of spruce or silver fir. Nordmann firs are also popular - they impress with their bright green, while the needles of a noble fir shimmer silvery-green.
If you want to create a mixed wreath, you can combine the fir branches with other types of greenery. Nice additions are:
- olive branches
How do you fix the candles?
With the DIY Advent wreath, it is best if you use ready-made candle plates with a skewer - this gives the candles an optimal hold. There are similar holders for tea lights. If you want to decorate your wreath with stick candles, you can stick them in the appropriate holder with dripped wax or use florist's play dough.
How do you keep an Advent wreath fresh?
The snow is falling softly - and with it the pine needles of your Advent wreath? The premature drying out process is annoying, but can be delayed with a few simple tricks:
- Make sure it is of good quality: Ready-tied Advent wreaths can be a bit older and therefore dry out faster. Find out in advance and decide on the freshest wreath. To ensure a long shelf life, you can of course also tie the Christmas wreath yourself. For this, you should use high-quality fir branches from a Nordmann fir or noble fir.
- Keep your Christmas wreath away from heat sources. High temperatures and dry air are hard on the fir branches.
- A small change of location overnight works wonders: store the Advent arrangement - if possible - on the balcony or in the basement at night. The low temperatures keep the wreath fresh for longer.
- Spray the Christmas wreath with a sprayer daily.
- If the branches were tied onto a straw wreath, you can place the wreath on a flat plate with water. The straw absorbs the moisture and releases it to the fir branches.
- Please do not use hairspray! One often stumbles across the tip of spraying the Advent wreath with hairspray. We strongly advise against this. The spray accelerates drying and increases the risk of fire many times over.