The Christian Bible Reference Site


What is Advent?

Advent is the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before Christmas. For churches that follow a liturgical calendar, the first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the church year. But many other Christian churches also observe Advent in one way or another.

Advent was traditionally a time of penance and fasting in preparation for Christ's second coming and for the Christmas celebration. Fasting is no longer observed, however, and Advent has become a more joyous season.

Advent Wreaths

Advent wreaths are popular to mark the weeks of Advent. They are used in homes as well as churches. Many churches host craft lessons where members can come and make Advent wreaths for their families.

In churches, the candles are lit during services and extinguished afterward. In homes, the candles are lit each week and the family may read Bible passages and offer prayers appropriate for the season. The candles are extinguished afterward. (For safety, never leave an unattended candle burning.)

Advent wreaths are an informal part of Christian worship, and different themes and symbolism are given to the candles by different Christian churches. The traditional wreath has one pink, one white and three purple candles, but one white and four blue candles are used in some churches. The white candle is often omitted.

The wreath's circle of evergreens reminds us that God is eternal, with no beginning or end. The three purple candles represent penance. The pink candle represents joy. The white candle in the center, called the Christ candle, represents the coming of Christ.

Advent wreath

First Sunday of Advent: One purple candle is lit.

Advent wreath

Second Sunday of Advent: Two purple candles are lit.

Advent wreath

Third Sunday of Advent: Two purple candles and the pink candle are lit.

Advent wreath

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Three purple candles and the pink candle are lit.

Advent wreath

Christmas Eve until Epiphany (January 6): All candles are lit.