Today in German-speaking Europe many families set up an Advent Wreath (Adventskranz) on the fourth Sunday before Christmas to kick off the holiday season. With its four candles, one for each week of the Advent season, the wreath is quite literally the centerpiece of the Christmas decoration and celebration. It’s where families gather around on each Advent Sunday to light the next candle, eat Christmas sweets, share memories, and perhaps even sing Christmas carols. In the past, when a family's Christmas Tree wasn't unveiled until Christmas Eve, the Advent wreath also provided the natural look and fresh scent of evergreen throughout the holiday season.
The history of the Advent Wreath goes back to Johann Hinrich Wichern in 1839. He was the founder of a home for poor children in Hamburg, Germany. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, the children were constantly asking him if it was Christmas yet. Thus, Johann invented the Advent Wreath to answer their questions. He constructed a wooden circle out of a cart wheel and topped it with 19 small red candles and 4 tall white ones. Each day he would light an additional candle, saving the white candles for Sundays.
Over the years the look of the Advent Wreath has changed quite a bit. It has been customary for many years to use evergreen pine bound into a wreath and the number of candles has been reduced to 4, for the four Advent Sundays before Christmas. Today, many modern interpretations can be seen. Some don’t use evergreen pine at all, but instead wood, metal, feathers, straw, and other decorative items. Sometimes, the advent wreath is not a wreath at all, but more of a rectangular shape with the candles in one line. A lot of creativity goes into the design! One thing has remained: It’s still a highlight and gathering spot for the family to come together, enjoying seasonal foods and drinks while the kids are counting down the time to Christmas Eve.
If you are interested in including an Advent Wreath in your family's Christmas celebration, please visit the Advent Wreath collection in our shop.
Should you prefer to create your own Advent Wreath this year, here are a few we've found around the internet for inspiration.