Let the Christmas Traditions and Customs Begin

Santa Claus waves to spectators along Central Park West during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Santa Claus waves to spectators along Central Park West during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Santa is officially tucked in place at Macy’s New York. You did watch the Macy parade on Thanksgiving, didn’t you?

Macy’s parade always signals Christmas preparations and traditions can officially begin for me.

I absolutely love Christmas customs and traditions. This month I’ll be sharing about my favorites starting with the Advent wreath.

If you attend a traditional liturgical church, you probably lit the second candle of an Advent Wreath yesterday because Advent this year began on Sunday, November 27.

Not familiar with the tradition of Advent? Here’s my cliff note version:

Advent comes from adventus meaning “coming” or “visit” and includes the four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent also serves as the beginning of the liturgical year for churches.

Observance of advent began sometime after the 4th century. In the Middle Ages, the church extended the celebration to include the coming of Christ through his birth in Bethlehem, his future coming at the end of time, and his presence among us through the promised Holy Spirit.

Modern-day Advent services center on a garland wreath of evergreen branches representing eternity and symbolizing the coming of the light of Christ into the world.

The wreath contains three purple (or blue) candles, one pink candle, and one white candle. Each successive Sunday of Advent one of the candles is lit. The order and exact wording used as the candles come to light varies among churches.

Traditionally, the Prophecy Candle is first. Second Sunday candle is the Bethlehem candle. Third Sunday candle is the pink Shepherd candle. Fourth Sunday is the last purple candle called the Angel Candle. The White Candle (or Christ Candle) is lit on Christmas Eve.

Other variations light the candles to represent Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy.

Read more about the symbolism of the advent wreath, candles, and colors here.

If your church does not formally recognize a season of Advent, constructing an Advent wreath for your home can be part of family holiday traditions.

Here’s a link to an Advent wreath-coloring page for children. You’ll also find fun holiday activities to occupy little hands there.

Observing Advent is a great way to keep Christ the focus, teach the true meaning of Christmas, and diminish the commercialism of Christmas.

Is an advent wreath part of your Christmas season?

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