An Advent wreath with candles is a traditional element of the Catholic church's celebration of Christmas. Bring this beloved tradition into your own home to enjoy with your family as we count down the days of Advent.
I always adored the weekly lighting of the Advent candles during Mass as a child. It was so exciting to finally see the Advent wreath fully lit and to know that Christmas was coming soon.
Last year as we were unable to celebrate Mass in person at our church, I really began to miss our holiday traditions.
I decided to make a DIY Advent wreath with candles to use as a centerpiece on our family dinner table all season long.
What started as a solution to a challenge, became something unexpectedly special that my family enjoyed using all season long. We loved having our own Advent wreath for family use so much, I've already purchased fresh Advent candles so we can use it all again this year.
If you are looking for ways to help live your Catholic faith with your children in simple everyday moments, I highly encourage you to create a family Advent wreath together.
What Is an Advent Wreath?
The most basic description of an Advent wreath is that it is a seasonal green wreath with four candles that get lit in the four weeks before Christmas, a season called Advent in the church.
The circle of the wreath itself represents God's unending love for us. It is often made of traditional pine or boxwood boughs. It may be decorated with ribbons or left simple and minimalistic.
The candles each have special meaning and need to be lit with specific timing.
The lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath is used during Sunday Mass as a moment to help the congregation pray together.
The Meaning of the Advent Candles
The Advent candles have their own special significance and are often the point of the most confusion regarding this Christmas tradition. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions:
A traditional Advent candle set includes 3 purple candles and 1 rose pink candle.
The candles as a set, represent the light of God coming to the world through Jesus. As His birth gets closer, the candles burn brighter as a collection.
The four individual candles of the Advent wreath each represent one of the four virtues of Advent: hope, love, joy, and peace.
One additional candle is lit each of the weeks leading up to Christmas. The first week, one candle. The second week, two candles. And so on until the entire wreath is lit at one time.
Week 1, Hope: Light one purple candle.
Week 2, Love: Light two purple candles.
Week 3, Joy: This is the week the rose pink candle is lit in addition to two purple candles.
Week 4, Peace: Light all four candles.
How to Make an Advent Wreath
It only takes a few simple supplies to make an elegant Advent wreath for your home.
Everything you need for a DIY wreath:
- Short Tapered Candle Holders: I picked up clear candle holders at Joann's where I could buy just the four I needed. In a pinch, you could buy a set like this and share with a friend or use the extras for decorating your Christmas dinner table.
- 16-inch Green Wreath: You need a simple wreath that is large enough to tuck the candle holders in the center but small enough to keep everything clustered on your table. An elegant boxwood wreath like this would be perfect.
- A Set of Advent Candles: Traditional Advent candles for an Advent wreath include three purple candles and one rose pink candle. You can get the perfect set of Advent candle tapers here.
- A 16 - 18-inch Lazy Susan: To keep everything snuggly together and allow you to move your Advent wreath around your home as needed, get a simple lazy susan to use as a tray. This 18-inch elegant wood version would be perfect. If you plan to use your lazy susan all year round, I splurged on this rustic farmhouse looking one from Dillard's.
- Christmas Accents to Match Your Decor: This is my favorite part of making a DIY Advent wreath. I love that you can mix and match the accents on your simple green wreath to perfectly match your home decor.
You can go sparkly, farmhouse, minimalist, or whimsical. Just make it meaningful for your own home.
I chose a few sparkly botanical picks to tuck into the wreath, simple red bows, and added a few small red cardinals because our family loves birds.
How to Assemble the Wreath:
Step 1: Place the Wreath on the Lazy Susan
The lazy susan is technically optional. If you plan to leave your wreath in one spot all season long, it isn't necessary.
However, we sometimes used our Advent wreath at the dining table and sometimes I moved it to the living room coffee table. It was really nice to be able to pick up the tray and move it around as needed.
Step 2: Tuck the Candle Holders In
Place the candle holders inside the center of the wreath. Using clear holders makes them easy to "hide" amongst the boughs of green.
Step 3: Add the Tapers
Add the four Advent candles to their holders. Even though you won't light each of them, they should all be on display together right from the start.
Step 4: Add Extra Decorations (Optional)
Add bows or floral picks or any additional decorations at this time.
How to Use the Advent Wreath with Your Family
I didn't realize how much we relied on our priest to do the work of the prayers for the lighting of the candles until we were at home and had to do it ourself!
I was so incredibly grateful for the Advent homeschool curriculum I purchased from Pam Barnhill's Morning Basket shop. It gave me the inspiration to think beyond the traditional Sunday Mass tradition and to use our Advent wreath as a special family tradition that incorporated a wide variety of moments:
- Sunday Family Prayer: You could light the wreath together just once a week and say a simple prayer together.
- Family Dinner Centerpiece: After saying grace, your kids could take turns lighting the candle to eat by candlelight every evening of Advent.
- Read-Aloud Time: We read several Christmas books together as a family during December. We would gather in the living room, light the Advent wreath, and then do our read-aloud time. These Christmas books for Advent would be a perfect choice.
- Music Appreciation: For just a few minutes some nights, I would play a symphonic performance from YouTube. The Nutcracker, Handel's Messiah, or other classical orchestras on the Christmas and Christian themes. We would enjoy the music while the Advent candles twinkled.
The Advent wreath followed us from room to room and was used for at least 5 - 10 minutes as part of our every day life.
A Family Advent Prayer
Praying around your Advent wreath doesn't need to be complicated but it can be very meaningful for your family.
As the Candles are Lit:
The person who lights the candles can say: "Jesus Christ is the Light of the World."
RESPONSE: "A light no darkness can extinguish."
While the Candles are Lit:
Choose one of the following:
- Sing a Christmas hymn together: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" would be most appropriate.
- Read the Mass Reading of the Day: Choose someone to read from the bible. All others respond: "Thanks be to God."
- Intercessory Prayers: This is a wonderful time to pray for others. Everyone can take turns offering a prayer: "For Grandma & Grandpa, that they may travel safely." At the end, everyone says together: "Lord, hear our prayers."
- Traditional Catholic Prayers: You could end with any combination of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and/or Glory Be. And of course, the sign of the cross.
Who Blows Out the Candles?
This was definitely my kids' favorite part of the tradition. At the start, there was a little bit of bickering about who got to blow the candles out at the end, which is exactly the opposite of the vibe I was trying to create!
I highly recommend you have a plan for how you'll rotate who gets to blow out the candles before you even begin.
You could go by age, pick days of the week, draw from a hat. However you want to handle it, just have a plan so the focus can remain on the special family prayer time!
Other Advent Traditions
Want to bring Christian Advent traditions into your family home? These are some of my favorite ways to celebrate Christmas with my children: