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The History and Trends of the Advent Wreath


Today, let’s delve into the history of the Advent wreath—a symbol that embodies not only the anticipation of Christmas but also the changes and trends of a constantly evolving time. Let’s take a retrospective journey into the history of the Advent wreath and take a glimpse at the current trends of 2023. Together, let’s immerse ourselves in the magic of the holiday season.

Advent Wreath with 24 candles
Photo: Flickr by Evangelische Kirche in Österreich CC-BY-SA 2.0

The History of the Advent Wreath

The tradition of the Advent wreath traces its roots back to the 19th century in Protestant Germany. In 1839, Johann Hinrich Wichern introduced the Advent wreath in evangelical Hamburg to help street children pass the time until Christmas. The light piercing through the darkness symbolized hope for the upcoming celebration. The original Advent wreath, also known as the “Wichern wreath,” had 22 to 28 candles, including 4 large white candles and several small red candles on a cartwheel. Starting from the first Sunday of Advent, a candle was lit each day. About a hundred years later, the Advent wreath also found its place in Catholic regions.

Changes Over the Years

The Advent wreath with only 4 candles primarily arose for practical reasons. Green pine branches were first used around 1860 for the construction of the Advent wreath. In 1952 the first Advent wreath hung in a Catholic church. However, in some places, the spread of the Advent wreath continued until after World War II. Similar customs exist in other cultures, such as the multi-day Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, or Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights.

The Advent Wreath of 2023

What can we expect this year? 2023 brings a breath of fresh air to the Advent wreath design. Natural elements like dried flowers and branches join traditional fir or pine branches. Color palettes range from classic green and red to modern pastel tones. DIY wreaths are experiencing a renaissance, while minimalist designs remain on-trend. An exciting time for creative minds to make their Advent wreaths truly unique!

advent wreath in a church with violet and pink candles
Photo: Flickr by Erzdiözese Wien CC-BY-SA 2.0

Three Quick Facts

As a symbol of anticipation, the third Advent candle is pink. The other candles on the church’s Advent wreath are purple, as it is the color resulting from the mix of red and blue, symbolizing the connection between humanity and God just before the Holy Night.

The title for the world’s largest Advent wreath is contested. In 2017, Mosnang, a community in Switzerland, won the race for the largest Advent wreath, measuring approximately 400m in circumference and 120m in diameter. The largest hanging Advent wreath is in Mariazell, Austria. The largest Advent wreath with real fir greenery and real candles stands in Kaufbeuren, Germany.

The spelling of “Adventkranz” varies in German usage. In Germany, it is officially called Adventskranz, while in Austria, the “s” in the middle is omitted.

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