Advent: History, Traditions, and Meaning

Posted on November 28, 2021 by Andrea Forsberg

Advent: History, Traditions, and Meaning

The first day of Advent is approaching and is a key for many that we have begun the Christmas season. For most people, Advent signifies the quickly impending arrival of time for family and friends, tasty food, and celebration. However, it is important to note the history and customs behind the celebration of Advent. Rooted in Christianity, the Advent season features many traditions holding symbolic and spiritual meanings.


What Is Advent?


The word "Advent" means “coming or arrival.” As a result, the first day of Advent marks the beginning of a period in which Christians observe the historical wait for the birth of Jesus. Modern Christians recognize a dual meaning, with Advent representing the anticipation of Christmas as well as Jesus' second coming after the end of the Christmas season.


Advent consists of a four-week period that begins the Sunday nearest November 30th. This time was chosen, of course, to allow Christians to anticipate Christmas and the observed date of Jesus’ birth. Advent is a time of both celebration and reflection, and the traditions associated with the season signify its importance.

Advent Wreaths


The four Sundays of the Advent season are each marked with a candle, placed within a special Advent wreath. The four candles of the Advent wreath are traditionally a combination of three purple and one pink. Many Christian denominations also include a fifth, larger “Christ candle” in the center of the wreath.


Each week leading up to Christmas, the candles are lit, all representing a different meaning for the season. Weeks one and two feature purple candles signifying hope and faith. Week three is represented by a special pink candle, which signifies joy and a shift from repentance to celebration. The final candle is purple once again and signifies peace. By Christmas Day, the Christ candle and all four candles are lit, celebrating the completion of the Advent season.

Other  Greenery


Aside from the candle-laden Advent wreath, you will notice a host of other wreaths and greenery through the Advent season that can be found on doors, tables, mantels, and more. Additionally, families hailing from many belief systems choose to display wreaths on their front doors. Those who observe Christmas display Advent wreaths and other greenery alongside the more secular Christmas trees. This greenery often includes specific plants and herbs symbolic of the season or stemming from Biblical times. Common wreath materials include boxwood, juniper, bedstraw, lavender, sage, thyme, and rosemary.


In most traditions, the wreath is a symbol of the continuous circle of life. It also reminds Christians of the continuity of God—God has always been with His people, and He will never leave them. The circle of the wreath is also symbolic of God's eternal love. As mentioned, the Advent wreath specifically symbolizes the four weeks leading up to Christmas and reminds Christians of the time remaining to prepare for Jesus' birth.


Other Symbolic Decorations


Advent and Christmas decorations also commonly feature ways to count down to Christmas. The popular Advent calendar supplies a series of doors, compartments, drawers, or pouches featuring items or treats—each day, one is removed to signify one day closer to December 25th. This tradition originated in Germany in the early 1900s and is still enjoyed by many today.

The season also includes symbolic objects such as an evergreen tree, a star, and more. Much like the wreath, the evergreen can represent the ever-present nature of God, signified by the continuous greenery and life sustained through the dead of winter. The Bethlehem star is thought to have been a guiding light for the three wise men who searched in hopes of finding Jesus. Many believe it to be a sign of hope, light and guidance. Often, the star is placed atop an evergreen tree, symbolizing the fact that Christians see Jesus as the "light of the world," bringing light during times of darkness.


Make the Advent Season Special


Whether you’re looking for a traditional Advent wreath, home décor with Advent symbolism, or simply a beautiful Advent arrangement for your home, Flower Works can help. Find Advent décor for you and your loved ones to enjoy by checking out the selection on our website. Alternatively, contact the shop to create an Advent display that perfectly suits your home.

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