For many Catholic families, the centerpiece of their Advent celebration is the Advent wreath. If you've never adopted this practice, what are you waiting for? You don't need a special wreath or candles (though there are many commercial ones available--compare prices); simply grab four candles. If you happen to have three purple ones and a rose one, that's great; if not, four white ones will do. (And, in a pinch, any color will suffice.)
Now, cut some evergreen boughs to arrange around them. They don't even have to be in a circle; you can place them in a straight line--say, on the mantel over the fireplace. (For more detailed, illustrated instructions, see How to Make an Advent Wreath.)
Once you have your wreath set up, the next step is the blessing of the Advent wreath. That's usually done on the First Sunday of Advent, or the evening before; but if you didn't do it then, don't worry--you can do it any time during Advent.
After the blessing, you're ready to light your advent wreath. Each week, there is a special prayer to be said before lighting the candles; you can find links to the prayers at the end of this post. During the first week of Advent, one candle is lit; during the second week, two; etc. If you do have a rose candle, save it for the third week--on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent, the priest wears rose vestments at Mass.
Usually, the candles are lit right before supper, and extinguished when supper is over; but you can light the wreath at any time, especially before doing your daily Scripture readings for Advent or praying. Children, in particular, find delight in the ceremony of the Advent wreath, and it's a great way to remind them that, despite the Christmas specials on TV and the Christmas music in stores, we're still waiting for the Birth of Christ.
(An Advent wreath with a central Christmas candle on a home altar. Photo © Scott P. Richert)
More on the Advent Wreath:
- Preparing for Christmas With the Advent Wreath
- How to Make an Advent Wreath
- How to Bless an Advent Wreath
- How to Light the Advent Wreath