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How Do You Light an Advent Wreath?

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The youngest child lights the first candle on the Advent wreath. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

Lighting the first candle on the Advent wreath. By tradition, the youngest child lights the first candle.

(Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The Advent wreath is a popular custom that originated in Germany in the 16th century. It consists of an evergreen wreath and four candles (traditionally, three purple and one rose). The candles are lit every night during Advent—one candle the first week, then an additional candle for each successive week. (You can learn more about the history and use of the Advent wreath in Preparing for Christmas With the Advent Wreath.)

Before lighting it for the first time, you should bless your Advent wreath. Once you've done that, read on for directions on how to light the Advent wreath.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 5 minutes

What You Need

  • An Advent wreath
  • Matches or a lighter

Here's How

  1. Make the Sign of the Cross

  2. Light the Appropriate Number of Candles

    • In the first week of Advent, light one purple candle.
    • In the second week of Advent, light two purple candles.
    • In the third week of Advent, light two purple candles and one rose candle.
    • In the fourth week, light all four candles.

    Many families have adopted the following custom:

    • The youngest child lights the candle in the first week.
    • The oldest child lights the candles in the second week.
    • The mother lights the candles in the third week.
    • The father light the candles in the fourth week.
  3. Pray the Advent Wreath Prayer for the Week

    The father (or other leader) leads the family (or group) in the appropriate Advent Wreath Prayer for the week:

  4. Leave the Advent Wreath Burning

    Most families light the Advent wreath before dinner and leave it burning throughout dinner. You can also light it before private or family prayer, or before engaging in an Advent devotion such as the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena or daily Scripture readings for Advent. (Dinnertime is a perfect time to incorporate one or both of those devotions into your Advent practices.)

  5. Extinguish the Candles

    After dinner and/or your Advent devotions, carefully extinguish all of the candles on the Advent wreath.

  6. End With the Sign of the Cross

    As with all devotions, the lighting of the Advent wreath should begin and end with the Sign of the Cross.

Tips:

  1. Be careful when lighting and extinguishing the Advent wreath, especially if your wreath is made from actual evergreen boughs. If any of the boughs begin to look too dry, remove them and replace them with fresh boughs.

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