Celebrating with an Advent wreath is a treasured memory of my childhood. Each night, we lit the candles and shared a short devotional, a carol and a prayer. Sometimes we were busy and missed a night, or more. But we tried to make it a priority whenever possible. For our family, this was an activity to be done after dinner but before bedtime. Homework was put to the side, house projects and cleanup put on hold. Phone calls could wait. My sister and I argued over whose turn it was to light the candles and whose to snuff them out. Sometimes my dad was there, other times he was held up at work or at church. But whenever possible, we all tried to be there together.

Our Advent wreath was simple, a metal wreath with positions for 5 candles. 3 purple, 1 pink and 1 white in the center. Feel free to make yours as simple of ornate as you would like. I bought a green metal wreath at our local A.C. Moore and decorated it with fresh greenery. A few years ago I decorated a simple brass wreath and artificial flowers and greenery for my sister as a birthday gift. (Her birthday is at the end of November so it was a timely gift). A few years ago, my mother purchased a more ornate Celtic Advent wreath.

We used to light the candles in the following way: Starting on the first Sunday of Advent we lit the first purple candle, the candle of promise. The devotional reader we used coordinated the weekly devotions on this theme. Then each night for the first week we lit that one candle and read devotions about promise. On the second Sunday of Advent we lit the candle of promise and a second purple candle, the candle of light, continuing in kind of the rest of the week. On the third Sunday we lit the first two purple candles and then the pink candle, the candle of love. On the final week we added the last purple candle, the candle of hope. Christmas Eve the white candle was also illuminated, making it five candles total and we would read the Christmas story and sing Silent Night.

This may sound like a lot to do. Remember, if you’ve never celebrated Advent before, this is not the only way to do it. In various traditions the candle colors and themes are different. What matters most about all of this is that you are taking the time as a family to slow down and focus together on the coming of Christ rather than being consumed by the busyness of the holiday season.

I’ll be talking further tomorrow about selecting an Advent devotional, which can be done with or without the advent wreath.

If you like the idea of the wreath, you don’t have to use a devotional at all. You could read some of the various scriptures about the Christmas story, share poems or sing Christmas carols. It could even just be a time to focus on dialogue as a family about what you like about the Christmas season and how you want to better use that time as a family.