The Christmas Wreath.
The circle is the first known shape in human history. It is the basis of geometry, astrology and astronomy. Ancient scientists believed it had divine powers since it has no beginning or end. The circle remains the world's most popular religious shape in many faiths. Christianity uses it throughout its worship for it represents the eternal circle of life. During the Christmas season, one of the best known and sacred symbols is the wreath.
With the spread of Christianity in Europe, the wreath's purpose and use expanded in new ways. Growing Christian beliefs replaced the mystical, pagan rituals. The eternal circle symbolized the enduring love between God and his son, Jesus. Wreaths made from evergreen branches contained holly berries and red ribbons that represented the blood of Christ. The wreath became an icon of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore during his crucifixion.
Advent, Latin for the coming, is a custom of spiritual reflection started by the German people to begin the celebration of the Christmas season. A wreath contained four candles to represent a light in the darkest winter months in hope of the coming spring. Three violet candles, each lighted a week before Christmas, represented hope, peace and love. The color of the fourth candle was red, and was lit on Christmas Eve. A white candle was placed inside the wreath and lit on Christmas Day. The color stood for the birth of Jesus.
By the 15th century, the tradition of the wreath spread throughout Christianity. Pilgrims brought the wreath to America where it flourished. The advent wreath remained popular, but a secular style of wreaths arose. Ribbons of various colors including gold intertwined with beads and holly berries in large pine wreaths found their way into society. In England, wreaths also contained roses placed in the arrangement. Desert brush made up wreaths used in Mexico, and decorated Spanish missions in the Southwest.
As an ageless symbol of the light of the world and the passage of time until Christmas, the hanging of an advent wreath marks the beginning of the yuletide celebration. As time changes this custom concerning candle colors, shape, and setting on a table instead of hanging, advent candles ultimately declare the start of Christmas festivities.The three purple candles in an advent wreath represent penance. The pink candle represents joyfulness. The purple candles are lit on the first, second and fourth Sundays of Advent. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday, also called Gaudete, which is a time to be joyful and celebrate the approach of Christmas. Some advent wreaths have a fifth candle that is white and meant to be lit on Christmas. Alternately, the four colored candles can be replaced with white candles on Christmas.
HOW TO LIGHT THE ADVENT CANDLES:
1. Light a purple or blue candle to symbolize hope or anticipation of the birth of Christ on the Sunday that falls four weeks before Christmas.
2. Relight the purple or blue candle from the previous week and light a second purple or blue candle to symbolize God's love for His followers on the Sunday that falls three weeks before Christmas.
3. Relight the purple or blue candles from the previous week and light the pink or rose candle on the Sunday that falls two weeks before Christmas to symbolize the joy associated with Jesus' birth.
4. Relight the purple or blue candles and pink or rose candle from the previous week and light the third purple or blue candle on the Sunday before Christmas to symbolize peace.
5. Relight all four candles from the previous week and light the white candle, or Christ Candle, in the center of the Advent display on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to celebrate the birth of Christ.
MAKING AN ADVENT WREATH:
To create your own wreath, wrap pine garland around a wreath ring. Add colorful details with hot glue or string, such as small figures of the nativity scene. Lay the wreath on a flat surface and arrange four candles around the inside of the wreath at an equal distance apart. Place another candle in the center. Light these candles on the 12 nights of Christmas.
Making a Wreath of Kindnesses:
Make a wreath for each child in the household from a paper plate with the center cut out. Attach one pink and three purple candles made of cardstock colored with markers by bending the bottom of each about 3/4 inch and gluing them down. Glue a paper flame to the top of each candle. Cut out dark and light green slightly elongated construction-paper hearts, and give each child a thick stack. Each time the child does something kind during Advent, he can write the deed on a heart and glue it to his wreath. As the acts of kindness mount, the wreath gets nice and full.
The Advent Calendar
Advent calendars are a great way to help kids understand how long they have to wait until Christmas! Instead of purchasing a calendar that contains the usual sweets or trinkets, consider making your own advent calendar that includes a fun family activity for each day from December 1 – 24. A smart way to plan your advent calendar is to pull out your diary and include pre-scheduled events and activities (such as 'go to the school Christmas concert') in your advent calendar so that you don't wind up with too much to do on any given day. Following are a few ideas to get you thinking about what activities you might like to include in your calendar
Day 1: Make your advent calendar. Start with a large sheet and a small sheet of poster board. Use Christmas colors if you like. Cut 25 “doors” measuring about 3 inches from the small sheet. Write one of the following activities on one side of each door, using a black magic marker (or use your own ideas). On the other side write 1 number per door, using the numbers 1-25. Each day in December your family can open one door, and enjoy a holiday activity together.
Day 2: Create an Advent Wreath centerpiece for your table. You will need five candles (can be obtained at the dollar store). Use decorative candle holders if you like, to add to the holiday charm. Use real or store bought evergreen branches and any other decorations you like, to complete your wreath. A candle will be lit, and a verse from the Bible, detailing the Christmas story will be read, each Sunday in December, as well as Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. (See days 9, 16, 23, 24 and 25 for suggested verses.)
Day 3: Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” together.
Day 4: Put up indoor Christmas decorations. Save the Christmas tree for another day.
Day 5: Take food to a local food pantry or homeless shelter.
Day 6: Decorate the yard, porch, and other outside areas of your home for the holiday.
Day 7: Make Christmas cookies. Be sure to make extra for family and friends.
Day 8: Get your Christmas tree, or, if you don’t use a live tree, put up and decorate your Christmas tree.
Day 9: The Angel Visits Mary (Mark 1:1-8) reading from the Bible. Share hot cocoa and Christmas cookies together as you read these verses.
Day 10: Take Christmas cookies to a shut-in at your church.
Day 11: String popcorn to hang on your Christmas tree.
Day 12: Make ornaments for your Christmas tree.
Day 13: Watch “The Greatest Story Ever Told" together.
Day 14: Go Christmas shopping. Plan to buy gifts for a needy child or family.
Day 15: Wrap Christmas gifts.
Day 16: Read Luke 1:26-38 together. Make homemade egg-nog.
Day 17: Deliver Christmas gifts.
Day 18: Drive around your town together and look at Christmas lights.
Day 19: Go Christmas caroling.
Day 20: Bake a Christmas cake
Day 21: Watch “The Nativity” together.
Day 22: Build a crib.
Day 23: Read Matthew 1:18-24. Prepare Christmas cookies together.
Day 24 ~ Christmas Eve: Read Luke 2:1-5. Enjoy family celebrations.
Day 25 ~ Merry Christmas: Read Isaiah 9:1-6. Enj