The Tradition of Lighting Candles During Advent

I celebrated my first Advent Season many years ago, while I was teaching art at an Episcopal Day School. Among other things, we lit a candle at the beginning of each day. At this time, I still like to light candles during Advent, but lighting candles is not an Advent must. As I have said before, there are many ways to celebrate Advent.

Today, I want to share with you excerpts from an excellent discussion of the significance of Advent candles.

What do the four candles of Advent symbolize?

“The four candles of Advent represent the four Sundays of Advent, and they respectively symbolize hope, peace, joy, and love. In some homes and parishes, people will also light a fifth candle on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to represent the birth of Jesus; this candle, when added to the Advent wreath, is typically white and larger than the other candles and is placed in the center of the wreath.

Image Credit: Root Candles

Advent candle weeks, names & colors

  • Advent week 1 – Hope: Prophecy Candle (purple)
  • Advent week 2 – Peace: Bethlehem Candle (purple)
  • Advent week 3 – Joy: Shepherd’s Candle (pink)
  • Advent week 4 – Love: Angel’s Candle (purple)

First Advent Candle/Sunday: Hope

“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C.S. Lewis

It is only fitting that the first candle on the Advent wreath represents Hope – the first Sunday of Advent … leads us to anticipate the birth of Christ…. The first candle is purple, the primary color of Advent and a color symbolizing royalty. Sometimes called the “Prophecy Candle,” the first candle harkens us back to Isaiah’s foretelling of the birth of Christ and all of the promises God gave us in the Old Testament that would be fulfilled by the birth of Jesus. This Advent, light the first candle on Sunday, December 3, 2023.

Second Advent Candle/Sunday: Peace

The second candle on the Advent wreath represents Peace. Like the first candle, it is also purple. Often called the “Bethlehem Candle,” the second Advent candle reminds us of Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem before Mary gave birth to Jesus. Building on the meaning of the Prophecy Candle, this second candle recalls that after all of the division, destruction, and dispersion of the kingdom in the Old Testament, there might finally be peace on Earth – Jesus is coming, and so is his Kingdom of Peace…light the second candle on Sunday, December 10, 2023. 

Third Advent Candle/Sunday: Joy

“’But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:10-12)

“The third candle of Advent symbolizes Joy. As we continue to approach Christmas Day, our joy grows more and more. The third candle takes us back to the joyful anticipation of the shepherds who journeyed to see Jesus in Bethlehem, even before the wise men. On this third Sunday of Advent…we light the third candle and rejoice like the shepherds. For this reason, the third candle of Advent is called the “Shepherd’s Candle,” and its color is pink, the liturgical color for joy. This Advent, light the third candle on Sunday, December 17, 2023. 

Fourth Advent Candle/Sunday: Love

“The fourth candle of Advent represents Love, the ultimate love of God that He might send His only Son for us. Called the “Angel’s Candle,” the fourth candle of Advent is lit the Sunday before Christmas, and it is the color purple, leading us to eagerly await the new Kingdom of God on earth. This Advent, light the fourth candle on Sunday, December 24, 2023.” From a post on the website

There is no ideal way to arrange your Advent candles. Most people arrange them in a circle and surround them with sprigs of evergreen.

Years ago, I scraped until I could buy a pottery Advent candle plate by McCarty Pottery, but I lost that one in my house fire. This year, I ordered a metal Advent ring from Amazon.

Blulu Christmas Advent Wreath Candle Holder 

I ordered candles from Amazon, too, I’ll use 3 purple candles and 1 pink candle on the Blulu ring,

I have also ordered a larger white pillar candle that I’ll place in the center of the ring. I’ll light the white candle on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day.

I’ll snip some holly and other evergreens from some of my shrubbery, and I’ll add that around my candles.

“The wreath itself, which is made of various evergreens, signifies continuous life. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life we find in Christ.

“Even the individual evergreens that make up the wreath have their own meanings that can be adapted to our faith. The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering. The pine, holly, and yew signify immortality and the cedar signifies strength and healing. The pine cones that decorate the wreath symbolize life and resurrection. The wreath as a whole is meant to remind us of both the immortality of our souls and God’s promise of everlasting life to us through Christ.” Mercy Home

Image Credit: Canadian Martyrs

“The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word adventus which means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival.’Advent is a time of year in which Christians prepare for Christmas—the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour—the arrival of the Messiah. …

“The candles represent Christ, our coming light. The candles have little meaning unless they are lit, for with the flame they become alive and give warmth and light. As the days become shorter and the hours of daylight are fewer, we begin Advent. At the year’s darkest time, we begin to light candles to make the darkness brighter. We await the birth of the Son—the Lord of light. In this symbolic way we remember that Jesus is living and that he is coming to give us life and light.

“The four candles simply represent each of the four weeks of Advent. The evergreen branches are symbols of everlasting life. In the fall, when other leaves fall and die, the evergreen remains green—it lives. This reminds us, through symbol, that Lord Jesus is our life and that he promises us everlasting life.

“Advent is a time of quiet and joyful anticipation of the Lord’s coming. Let us pray that we have a change of heart and turn towards him as the centre of our families and faith community.” Canadian Martyr