Advent marks the beginning of the Christian ecclesiastical year and begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, the feast of St. Andrew. The term advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming. The advent season reminds Christians of the coming of Christ, and the Church liturgy emphasizes repentance together with hope.
Originally a German custom, advent wreaths are now part of the customs and traditions of many Christian homes. These wreaths were once hung, but today most are used as table centerpieces.
Advent wreaths are often fashioned from evergreens and herbs associated with the Christmas season and the Holy Family. Four candles are inserted around the wreath, one for each Sunday in Advent. One candle is lit each Sunday until all four candles are lit on the last day of Advent. Traditionally the candles are three pink and one purple, or three red and one white. Each Sunday a family member recites a verse from both the old and the new Testaments and lights a candle. When the last candle is lit on the fourth Sunday the Celebration begins.
Advent wreaths differ from maker to maker. The herbs and greens used can be fresh or dried, the types, colors and decorations can be a matter of personal choice and taste.The Advent Wreath can be color coordinated to ones room or fashioned with herbs filled with symbolism.
Begin with either a wire wreath ring or a straw wreath for the base. Juniper or pine is used to cover the base and represent sanctuary. Sprigs of rosemary are added to remember the Holy Family fleeing Egypt. Herbs that would have been found in the manager can be added next and include; thyme, pennyroyal, and Our Lady’s Bedstraw.
Horehound, one of the bitter herbs mentioned in the Bible is also a wish of good health.
Rue, known as “herb of grace”, was once used by the Church to sprinkle holy water can be added as a symbol of virtue. Lavender, an herb associated with Mary represents purity and virtue.
Sage can be included to represent health and immortality and a sprig of myrtle stands for,
“the highest good, love, domestic happiness and virtue”. Other herbs to choose from include; Chrysanthemum to symbolize the Three Wise Men or the Shepard’s, costmary known as the Bible leaf plant, used by Mary Magdalen to make precious ointments.
Finish off the Advent Wreath with basil for love, marjoram for happiness and burnet for a happy heart. Ribbons of silver, gold, purple or red made be added to finish the wreath.