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Guide to Advent: Signs and Symbols

By Office of Campus Life and Ministry

Darkness and light, night and day, death and life, sin and freedom!

Do you know where the Advent wreath comes from? The origin seems to be pre-Christian Germanic, where peoples used wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light.

Christ is “the Light that came into the world” that dispels the darkness of sin and radiates the truth and love of God (John 3:19-21). In the Middle-Ages Christians began to used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas.

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful.

  • Evergreens = continuous life
  • Laurel = victory over persecution and suffering
  • Pine and Yew = immortality
  • Cedar = strength and healing
  • Holly = the crown of thorn


The shape of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God and immortality of our soul.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world.

Advent is a preparatory season.

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.”


It has significance because it is a season of looking forward to something greater, the coming of Christ. During Advent we are asked to prepare themselves worthily encounter the incarnate God of love.

Jesus, Light of the World, Pray for us.

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