Christmas Special – 4th Advent: Christmas tree and Advent wreath

It’s the fourth Advent and nearly Christmas. All four candles of the Advent wreath are burning, symbolising the end of the waiting time. But why is one candle lit every week?

Advent wreath

At the time when there was no electricity, the rooms were dark without the light of the candles during the moody and dark winter time. Hence, the people lit candles to get a bit of light. For the Christians ‘Christ’ also symbolises light and light symbolises hope. Therefore, lighting candles every week until the Nativity symbolise the increasing light and hope and should keep the demons away. The tradition of lighting a wreath with four candles already existed among the Teutons as they celebrated the rebirth of the light (Jul) on the 21st of December. They light the candles starting with the fourth and ending with the first. However, the theory of the Advent wreath’s origin in this tradition is not yet completely proved. The tradition of the wreath itself is stated to origin from a German Lutheran pastor around 1900 who created the wreath for children of a youth institution.

Modern Advent wreath in golden colours
Floral Advent wreath in red and green

During the Advent time which comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning arrival, many people start decorating their homes with mainly green and red colours. Green symbolises the hope and trust, whereas the red colour symbolises Christ’s blood. The tradition of decorating the houses with green branches already existed a very long time ago. However, having whole trees in the houses and decorating them is not as old as the other tradition. It originated less than 400 years ago around 1419 among wealthy families. Advent wreaths were more usual among poorer families. At the beginning, the trees were hang in the rooms and decorated with mainly sweets, apples, nuts and gingerbreads. On New Year’s Eve, the children were allowed to eat the decoration after they were removed from the trees. Between 1730 and 1880, the decoration was exchanged with candles, baubles and glittery tinsels. Around the 18th century, the tradition was brought to the USA and the first official public tree was arranged in New York. However, unfortunately, there is no exact or clear origin of the tree’s tradition. Further theories say that the tree was a tradition among the medieval times where the tree symbolised the tree of temptation which was decorated with sweets and apples on the side of the well-behaved, and empty on the side of the bad-behaved. Furthermore, the tradition seemed to be originated as mainly protestant tradition whereas the Catholics only had the manger instead. Nowadays, the different traditions come together as one and are common in most of the families within Christians. The houses are decorated in the brightest colours and shine or sparkle everywhere.

Christmas tree in Birmingham, UK
White Christmas tree decoration
Small Christmas tree with typical traditional colours

With all the different traditions the Christmas tree and Advent wreath are definitely things that should not be missed during the Christmas time which therefore becomes a special time every year.

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