First Advent wreath
Looking for information about Advent wreaths, we can find many different versions about where and when this kind of decoration first appeared. One of the stories is that the first Advent wreath was made by pastor Wichern. This pastor lived in Hamburg and decided to do something that would make the waiting time for the birth of Christ more pleasant. The wreath he created was very different from the wreaths we can now find in the church. This wreath was a square the size of a wheel from a car. Four large candles were placed in this square, symbolizing the four Advent Sundays, as well as an appropriate number of smaller candles, which corresponded to the remaining days of Advent (including Christmas Eve). This meant that, depending on the year, in the wreath made by the pastor, there were a total of twenty-four candles in the world (a view rather unheard of today – around 1860, twenty-four candles were given up, leaving four large ones, symbolizing the following Sundays of Advent).
As far as the symbolism of the wreath itself is concerned, we have to go back to ancient times in search of explanation. Already then, the wreath, usually made of vegetable leaves, was a symbol of victory. The idea behind the pastor creating his wreath was very simple. The idea was to encourage reflection on the victory of Christ, who, although helpless at birth, had the task of redeeming humanity. Burning candles, giving light, were to become a symbol of rejection of evil, darkness and sin. The creation of a wreath was also a practical application. The pastor took care of the orphanage he founded. And during Advent services (which, after all, take place in winter, when darkness quickly falls), he wanted to give his charges some heat and light.
Although the idea of an Advent wreath was born in the Evangelical Church (in Northern Germany), it quickly gained many supporters and went beyond the walls of this particular Christian faction. In the Catholic branch, the first wreath appeared in Cologne in 1925. In neighboring Austria, the custom of making Advent wreaths appeared only twenty years later, in 1945. Nowadays, according to the custom, the Advent wreath is consecrated during the evening service, celebrated on the Saturday that precedes the first Sunday of Advent. In Austria and Bavaria, three purple and one pink candles are traditionally placed in the wreaths. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent. This Sunday is called “Gaudete,” which means “Rejoice!”. This joy is to be associated with the rapid birth of Christ, who comes into the world to save humanity.