Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent Candles

 It's no big surprise that I love to celebrate and I love traditions.  Some "holidays" I find are rather silly and bizarre, others are more traditional and a few are down right sacred.  That last category is where I put the Advent candles.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and counts down the days until the arrival of Christmas. The term Advent comes from the Latin “adventur”, meaning arrival. Advent wreaths  are an old Protestant custom, which originated in Eastern Germany. The traditional Advent wreath is made from evergreen branches to symbolize God's ever-lasting presence. In the wreath are four candles -- three purple or royal blue candles that represent penance and one pink one to represent the hope of the coming joy. (Some call it Mary's candle)  Each candle represents one of the four weeks before Christmas. (I could never understand why the pink one was the third Sunday.  I always thought it should be last, but  oh well, I don't make-up these traditions.)

I started having Advent wreaths when I was a kid.  I was a regular church-goer in a very traditional Episcopal church.  I went to church, but my mom didn't.  She worked and wanted a true day off, but her religion didn't seem to waver, so she appreciated the touch of symbolism I brought home with the candles.  I grew up using the purple candles that are more common in these wreaths.

When my girls were young, we went to an Episcopal church that was kind of a mix of old traditions and new thinking.  It had a guitar playing priest who really  tried to bring the kids into the service at every opportunity.  One thing he did, however, was revert to the apparently older version of the Advent candles and use royal blue instead of purple.  I don't really remember his theology behind the decision, but I do remember the hub bub it caused with some of the older members of the congregation.

Today, I don't go to church.  Partly because I work a lot of Sundays and partly because I haven't found a church that suits me, and partly because while I consider myself a Christian, I'm not sold on the "organization" of churches anymore.  That has a lot to do with working with a holy roller televangelist for a while, but that's another story.

Anyway, my daughter is going to church regularly and so I really wanted to carry my love of the meanings of the Advent candles to her home.  So I went off in search of candles. I thought it would be easy to find a ready packaged set of Advent candles, but I was wrong. (Of course, I didn't actually try a religious store since I was shopping on Black Friday.  I could have thought of this earlier, I suppose.)  I actually had a hard time finding any taper style candles that were colors other than red and white.  I finally found some though and she will have 3 royal blue and 1 pink candle to light starting tonight.

In all the hustle and bustle of the start of the Christmas season, we will slow down, and have a little joy with the beauty and grace of a burning candle to remind us there's more to the season than shopping and gift-giving.

May you have a wonderful, peaceful first Sunday in Advent, with candles or without. 

No comments: