The Meaning of the Four Advent Candles

During Advent and Christmas, festively decorated evergreen wreaths hang in windows and on doors everywhere. In many homes and churches, it’s also common to see special wreaths lying on tables or ledges, adorned with four candles (usually three purple and one pink). This familiar symbol of the season is the Advent wreath.

Traditionally, the Advent wreath is a circle of evergreen branches. It is often decorated with berries and pinecones. Both the evergreen branches and the circular shape symbolize the passing of time and eternal life. The shape of the wreath, with no beginning or end, reflects the complete and endless love that Jesus has for us. During the Advent season, we eagerly anticipate his coming and the promise of eternal life in heaven with him.

The Four Advent Candles

As a Christian tradition, the wreath holds the four Advent candles. The candles represent Jesus coming as the light in darkness. One candle is lit each Sunday until all four candles are lit. As Christmas draws nearer, each candle brings a little more light into the darkness. Sometimes a white candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to symbolize that Jesus is with us. This can be referred to as the "Christ candle."

Each of the candles lit before Christmas represent an aspect of preparation during the season of Advent:

The First Week of Advent: December 3, 2023

Pray the Advent wreath prayer for week one

Candle Name: the Prophecy Candle

The First Week of Advent Represents: Hope

Candle Color: Purple

Purple is the primary color associated with Advent. Within the Catholic Church it symbolizes penance, preparation, and sacrifice. During the first week of Advent we remember the Old Testament prophets who foretold of Jesus’ coming with hope and anticipation.

The Second Week of Advent: December 10, 2023

Pray the Advent wreath prayer for week two

Candle Name: the Bethlehem Candle

The Second Week of Advent Represents: Peace and Preparation

Candle Color: Purple

During this second week of Advent, we reflect on our lives and work on becoming better-versions-of-ourselves in preparation for Jesus’ coming. We remember the journey Joseph and Mary took from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

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The Third Week of Advent: December 17, 2023

Pray the Advent wreath prayer for week three

Candle Name: the Shepherd's Candle

The Third Week of Advent Represents: Joy

Candle Color: Pink

This third candle is pink and symbolizes rejoicing. During the third week of Advent we are filled with joy for the near arrival of Jesus on Christmas day. This Sunday is often called "Gaudete Sunday" as we reflect on the joy the shepherd's felt at the birth of Jesus.

The Fourth Week of Advent: December 24, 2023

Pray the Advent wreath prayer for week four

Candle Name: the Angel's Candle

The Fourth Week of Advent Represents: Love

Candle Color: Purple

During this final week of Advent we rejoice in the endless love that God has for us, which is made apparent in the birth of his Son. We reflect on the good news of God's love brought to us from the angel Gabriel.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

- John 3:16

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