Why Do We Light Candles During Advent?

It is a few days before Advent begins, and I am getting everything ready for my celebration. Keep in mind that there are no MUST-Dos for Advent, but I like to read a Bible story each day, and I like to create ornaments for my Jesse Tree.

I also like to light an Advent Candle each night.

This Video Explains Why I Light 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 hallow.com

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.

I have a few more traditions for Advent: For one thing, I like to sing and listen to music during Advent. I have decided that Disney’s Song I See the Light from Tangled is a perfect song for Advent. This year, I’ll play this video and sing with it every day.

Please Join Me and Donkey on December 3, 2023, and until Christmas Day, as we celebrate Advent in our home. 

Each day, I’ll share an animated Bible video story, and afterward, I’ll lead some sort of craft and/or other activity to honor that story.

I See the Light

“All those days watching from the windowsAll those years outside looking inAll that time never even knowingJust how blind I’ve beenNow I’m here, blinking in the starlightNow I’m here, suddenly I seeStanding here, it’s all so clearI’m where I’m meant to be

“And at last I see the lightAnd it’s like the fog has liftedAnd at last I see the lightAnd it’s like the sky is newAnd it’s warm and real and brightAnd the world has somehow shiftedAll at once everything looks differentNow that I see you.

What if, instead of saying “You” we say “Now that I see the Light of the World?

I deliberately referenced Light several times in my picture book The Donkey’s Song.

Light is the Reason for the Season, and Avent is the Season of Light.

Jacki Kellum is the Author of the Picture Book The Donkey’s Song
Published by Doubleday for Young Readers at
Random House Kids & Penguin Random House