I became Orthodox when I was six, along with the rest of my family. I’m grateful my parents went through the hard work of reading about and seeking out this faith, along with leaving their old church behind. My parents worked diligently to make the Orthodox Faith an important part of our lives. They brought us to many services, prayed with (and for) us, and created many traditions in our family home.
This is why I grew up thinking every Orthodox family had an Advent wreath.
You can imagine my surprise this past year when I searched for Advent wreaths on our archdiocese website and found…nothing. I broadened my search to Google and found a few references to Orthodox Advent wreaths, but nothing from well-known sites. I contacted my priest.
Are Orthodox Advent wreaths a thing? I can’t find very much about them. Are they good? Bad? What’s the deal?
He wrote back something to this effect: They’re a small “t” tradition. They aren’t used widely, but they can definitely be a good thing.
Considering this to be a blessing to proceed, I started searching these less well-known sites to learn more.
I found that the root of Advent wreaths seems to come from several Western churches, including Lutheran, Anglican, and Catholic parishes. The purpose is to observe each Sunday during the season of Advent in anticipation of the Nativity of Christ. The colors for the Western Advent wreaths are violet and rose, corresponding with the liturgical colors they use for these weeks. The circle shape symbolizes eternal life, as do the evergreen branches frequently used to decorate the wreath.
The minimal information I could find about Orthodox Advent wreaths indicates many colors being used each with a different significance. The wreaths for the Orthodox also need more candles, as our Advent season is longer–starting on November 15th. Otherwise, the purpose of an Orthodox Advent wreath is very similar: a way to celebrate the weeks leading up to the Nativity!
We’ve decided that an Orthodox Advent wreath is a great tradition to create for our family!
Finding practical and simple ways to participate in a Church season is wonderful, especially with small children. We currently light a candle for most of our meals and little daughter loves this! (she often reminds me “candle, lighter!” at the beginning of each meal) She is going to be AMAZED when we bring out a whole wreath of candles in a couple weeks. While she won’t necessarily grasp the meaning this year, the rhythm of this practice will become a part of her Advent. She will learn more about the teachings behind the symbols throughout the years.
Putting the Wreath Together.
This is what I was able to find (and corresponds with what I remember from my childhood advent wreath) about the colors and Bible readings.
1st Sunday • Green to symbolize Faith • Readings: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7; 40:3-5; 52:7
2nd Sunday • Blue to symbolize Hope • Readings: Luke 1:5-31
3rd Sunday • Gold to symbolize Love • Readings: Luke 1:26-38
4th Sunday • White to symbolize Peace • Readings: Luke 2:1-18
5th Sunday • Purple to symbolize Repentance • Readings: Mark 1:1-8, 14-15
6th Sunday • Red to symbolize Holy Communion • Readings: John 1:1-18; 6:52-58
Christmas Day • White for Christ! • Readings: Luke 2:1-7
I found these gorgeous colored beeswax candles to use for our Advent wreath. They are a little more expensive, but I prefer to buy candles without lots of additives. (bonus: because they only come in a double pack, I now have my candles for next year, too!)
I have my eye on one of these birthday rings, that I think would also work well for our Advent wreath. However, I decided to use what I have available at the moment. I’d found a set of silver cordial cups at a garage sale this summer and hadn’t decided on a good use for them yet. This is the perfect fit! I placed the six candles around the central Christ candle and we have a wreath! Right now we still have our fall nature items as decoration, but after Thanksgiving we’ll switch to evergreen branches.
I’m excited to have this tradition with a small “t”. I love that this is an Advent celebration that I’m passing down from my parents to my daughter. I can’t wait to see little daughter’s face on November 15th and to help her learn how to prepare for the Nativity each year.
Does your family do an Advent wreath? What other Advent traditions do you have? I’d love to know!