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Advent Wreath in the Christmas Season?

Advent wreathRecently I was asked on twitter what to do with the Advent Wreath during the Christmas Season. I asked the community on facebook and twitter and was so interested in the variety of good ideas that I am making this into a blog post. You can add other ideas into the comments below.

The origin of the Advent Wreath is uncertain. It may be as recent as the nineteenth century.

How are you using the Advent wreath in the Christmas Season? Are you still using it? Are you still lighting all the candles? Have you replaced the purple (and rose) candles for white ones? When do you stop using it?

Here are a few of the responses:

  • We replace our Advent candles for maroon colored candles (I know, not liturgical white) and we keep the “bowl of prayers” in the center (that we started filling with prayers during Advent) to remember through the Christmas Season.
  • Advent Candles lit until Candlemass.
  • The purple and rose candles (and ribbon) are replaced by white candles, but we never used the Advent wreath devotionally after Christmas Eve.
  • The wreath is gone by the end of 12th night, along with almost every other remnant of Christmas decor. Until then all candles have been lit at services.
  • White candles on Christmas then it goes back into storage until next advent. But I don’t take any items down till the Baptism- and I keep one small item up until Feb 2nd the true end of the season.
  • The Advent wreath until Vespers on December 24th.
  • purple and rose for Advent and then switch to all white candles until epiphany.
  • The Advent Wreath is replaced by the crib.
  • After Christmas Vigil, I left my candles–all four plus the Christ candle in the centre–burn out entirely on their own (similar, I suppose, to the Jewish practice of letting the menorah candles burn out naturally.)
  • On Christmas Eve, the 4 Advent candles were replaced with 4 white candles.
  • …the star will stay until Candlemas
  • We’re ‘taking each light into the world’… in a brief litany, we’re carrying out one candle ‘into the world’ each week of Epiphany.

Any more ideas. And the above are just some of the responses received.

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11 Responses to Advent Wreath in the Christmas Season?

  1. When we put up an advent wreath it was taken down at Epiphany seen as the conclusion of Christmas. I no longer put up an advent wreath, As I get older I see less and less of Jesus in the over=elaborate nature of the catholic side. This I fear is evident on this site. The recent post on proclaiming the date of Easter comes to mind. What is suggested is quite beautiful and personally I would enjoy it. But really what would the Jesus we from time to time glimpse in the Gospels make of all our pomp and circumstance. Jesus makes demands on us almost impossible to achieve. Is our elaborate ritual a way to avert, avoid thinking through this demand? Let us elaborate rather than agonise about the eye of the needle!!!

    • There’s a lot to reflect on in your thoughtful comment, Brian – and thanks for that. I am totally with you in the critique of over-elaborate ceremonial that becomes an end in itself and a distraction rather than a profound pointer; but let’s be honest about the alternative which is being drowned in endless verbosity; or worse: the combination of both! If you read my book, Celebrating Eucharist, I think the perspective I am advocating is quite the opposite of what you perceive as “evident on this site” – so the thought that this is how what is given here can be received is quite distressing to me. I struggle to see how proclaiming the date of Easter, or thinking about different ways to use an Advent Wreath as “pomp and circumstance” that Jesus would have issues with. Especially as the heart of this particular post is the acceptance that there are different ways in which a community might celebrate with the wreath sign/symbolism and no heated debates about this being the only way; or this way being wrong. Blessings.

  2. I am reminded, when you speak of there not being an only way, of a true story I heard during Liturgy & Worship in seminary. There was a new Methodist paster assigned by her bishop to a parish in a coal mining community. Traditionally during the Ash Wednesday imposition of ashes, the ash is the burnt palms from the year before Palm Sunday. But she wanted to make it a bit more relevant to the community whose lives were permeated by the ever present coal dust. So she walked through the little mountain village and picked up the bits of coal she found and ground this up and used it for the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday.

  3. The Advent Wreath comes originally from mid 19th century Hamburg/Germany. It was invented by Lutheran Pastor Johann Hinrich Wichern, who ran an orphanage in Hamburg. To make the long waiting for Christmas easier to handle for his children he invented the Advent Wreath which originally had 24 candles. 4 red ones and 20 white ones. Therefore we still have traditional red candles in Germany.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent_wreath

    And:no Advent Wreath in the Christmas Season. 😉

  4. Thank you for your comment Bosco, I am sorry if my frustration at some experiences have led me to project them on to your site. I generally enjoy it very much even if I sometimes think it over elaborate. Yes, it is better than being drowned in endless verbosity. I have been reading Peter Brown’s “The Eye of the Needle” and Francis Spufford’s “Unapologetic”- there’s a pun-, Marilynne Robinson and reflecting on all our propensity to sheer away from the radical, nigh impossible demand of Jesus. Let me quote Spufford. He has just referred to “our rueful orthodoxies”. ” We do try to ring the bells that can still ring, though much of the carillon is corroded, or lost to metal fatigue, or otherwise spoiled.”Blessings on your ringing of the bells.

    • Thanks, Brian. I do hope you can elaborate further on why/where you find the liturgical life advocated on my site sometimes “over elaborate”. I think of myself as constantly advocating the beauty of simplicity. Concretely: the reduction of strings of collects to one; the eschewing of placing signs on signs; the limiting of words; the refraining from providing verbal explanations and allowing simple symbols to simply, powerfully “speak” for themselves in different ways to different people; the increasing of silence; the reduction in clericalist, arcane gestures; the removal of “guru’s cats” (burse and veil,…); etc. etc. etc. You will understand, hence, Brian, my distress, if putting all this energy into this site results in the opposite being understood by its readers! Blessings.

  5. Some of the difference between us is no doubt resulting from cultural experience of religion. I grew up as a Catholic
    in the western tradition of the Bishop of Rome. I am old enough to have some experience of this church before Vatican II when Benediction seemed much grander than Mass-which, unless on some Cathedral occasions, was never grand, and when for many the Rosary outranked everything. i well remember the clicking of the rosary needles during the mumbling of the Latin mass.
    As a young person I often attended daily Mass in Lent- 25 minutes, almost unheard and rushed Latin, no homily of any sort. Yet all this was unimportant spiritually, i was hearing Mass and sacramentally alive. And it was all part of day to day life as Jesus lived his.
    After vatican Ii at first we rejoiced in the English – although if you knew the Latin as I did there was something missing. And then there were English hymns-beyond “Hail Queen of Heaven- and guitars. But by and large it was still down to earth, everyday,
    When my late wife and I joined the Anglican version of catholicism we had not changed religion. To this day I do not recognise the Lord’s Prayer, it is “Pater Noster”,Our Father with none of that added on bit straight after it.
    The worship while similar was more formal, less of the day to day. Or maybe that is the English style persisting. we had experienced it before but not realised that it was the normal style. Previously many of us used to joke that Anglo-catholics were more Catholic than the Pope.

    So sometimes I feel that the worship style is too precious, not grounded. But I must admit that Sung Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer achieves what Benediction never did.
    I also must say our present priest is well grounded and some Eucharists are as down to earth as any I have experienced.
    You asked for some examples that I-and I stress I- think too insistent on form and style. Recently you wrote about confusion in seasonal liturgical colours in NZ. The advice given by your “authorities’ as you noted was absurd. But did it really matter? Was it going to impact on the spiritual significance of the Mass?
    recently you wrote on house blessing and judging by the comments I stand alone here. Some fine prayers but hardly of the day to day. of significance to our trying to live a life with Christ. I have been to a number of house blessings. in two cases non-believers requested them. And my conclusion is that they are largely exercises in sentimentality not spirituality.
    Enough of this. Overall this site is one of the best I know, your general comments, what you have to say of collects, of the unconnectedness of much in church practice.

    • Thanks, Brian.

      Let’s take your two examples:

      1) Where our lectionary suggests all liturgical colours for Sunday 11 November, you ask, “did it really matter? Was it going to impact on the spiritual significance of the Mass?” Have a look at the post. If I thought it really mattered, do you think I would light-heartedly add the photos I did? If I thought it really mattered I would be raising it as a motion at our synod. Yes – I do think it matters, because I think that liturgical colour matters. But really matters? In the sense of “impacting the spiritual significance of the Mass”, its validity, or our eternal salvation – no (and I’m surprised anyone would think I could think like that). If liturgical colour doesn’t matter at all – let’s not use them. But to give this as your example of where I am “over elaborate”…

      2) The Epiphany House Blessing seems to me to be a delightful, down-to-earth, wonderful way to kick off the year; for a family – actually for any household. I’m delighted to hear “non-believers” request it. I’m not so quick to hermetically seal “believers” from “non-believers”. Nor am I so sure where “sentimentality” stops and “spirituality” starts.

      Blessings.

  6. Ok I will accept your points. i missed the light heartedness in your post re colours. I gave it a somewhat sarcastic note, Sorry if I misinterpreted. I thought it wasn’t important enough to blog on given the wealth of absurdities in the church.
    I was not critical that non believers participated. i agree with you. One of them a self-proclaimed atheist is a most generous supporters of our parish, reader etc. I am very close to both of them.
    But at almost all of the house blessings I have attended i do not feel any difficulty in detecting rampant sentimentality, particularly directed towards “what a lovely” priest.
    Now I think belief in Christ is ultimately grounded in emotion, ‘la coeur a ses raisons” . Augustine said something along the lines that faith and hope are something we cannot see. So there is a connection with sentimentalty .

    • Cool, Brian. And, yes, important point: there certainly is a wealth of absurdities in the church. I do not blog on them all; nor do I rank them and blog from the most absurd down. If I do not blog on something, that does not mean it is not absurd. If I do blog on something, that does not mean I necessarily regard it as having a high absurdity ranking. What I do decide to blog on or not will be regarded by some (you perhaps included) as yet another example of absurdity. Blessings.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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