The origins of the Advent wreath reach back to pre-Christian times in Northern Europe. As the winter solstice approached, people placed candles on evergreen wreaths in anticipation of the return of longer daylight hours. Christians adapted this custom to the Advent season and the anticipation of the celebration of Christmas. By the dawn of the Reformation the Advent wreath as we know it today was in use.
Advent wreaths are formed from the branches of various types of evergreens. The evergreen branches symbolize eternal life. Four candles adorn the wreath. Three purple or blue candles representing hope, peace, and love are lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays, respectively, of Advent. On the third Sunday the rose candle, symbolizing joy, is lit. Some Advent wreaths have a fifth candle in the middle. This white candle, representing the birth of Jesus and the announcement of the angels, is lit on Christmas Day. The lighting of each candle expresses the longing, joy, and thankfulness of God’s people as we commemorate our Savior’s first coming and our anticipation of his second coming to judge the world and to take us to heaven.