15 December 2020
A very popular custom in Germany is the lighting of candles in an Advent wreath on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The concept of the Advent wreath originated among Lutherans in the 16th century, but it didn’t catch on in its current form until 1839 when a Protestant pastor got creative with an old cartwheel and 24 candles.
The modern wreath is usually made from sprigs of fir, a tree which symbolizes hope. The circular form, which has no beginning and no end, stands for eternity and the resurrection. The four candles are said to represent the compass points. And the flames denote the arrival of Jesus Christ, who lights our way in dark times.*
There are as many variations of the wreath as there are creative minds, and this is the one we have in our home this year:
We’re lucky enough to have a fir tree in our garden, and we had some pine cones left from previous years. The scented candles are from a lady on the Scottish mainland, who makes lovely responsibly-sourced, eco-friendly, vegan candles. Since there have already been three Sundays in Advent (29 Nov, 6 Dec and 13 Dec), three candles are now burning. The final one will be lit this coming Sunday.
Another decoration we make is a very simple one – a chain of lights in a clear glass bowl stuffed with sprigs of holly (watch your fingers – holly leaves are extremely sharp!). Again, we’re lucky enough to have a beautiful holly bush in our garden (and we picked up the glass bowl from our local charity shop), so we didn’t have to go far to get the materials needed for this festive adornment:
We don’t have a real Christmas tree in our house. We view the tradition of chopping down perfectly good trees, placing them in our home for a few days and then somehow disposing of them as a relic carried over from the Victorian age, which has no place in the 21st century. And a plastic tree would raise the question, what happens to it when it’s no longer wanted? This year, inspired by an idea from one of our neighbours, we crafted this tree from a used pallet and decorated it with various bits and pieces:
What steps can you take now?
- Get creative with your homemade decorations, using materials which can be composted or reused and which don’t harm the environment.
- Avoid buying candles which contain paraffin, unsustainably sourced soy wax, synthetic fragrances and colourants, or artificial additives.
- Be mindful of your consumption and waste, especially at this time of year when we are encouraged to spend and indulge even more than usual.
*The information in this paragraph is taken from an article in the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (in German).