How Do You Light an Advent Wreath?

Step-by-Step Instructions to Light the Advent Candles

Advent wreath with one burning candle.
Advent wreath with one candle lit for the First Week of Advent. MKucova/Getty Images

The Advent wreath is a popular custom that originated in Germany in the 16th century. It consists of an evergreen wreath and four candles (traditionally, three purple candles and one rose one). The candles are lit every night during Advent—one candle the first week, then an additional candle for each successive week.

The Blessing of the Advent Wreath

Before lighting it for the first time, you should bless your Advent wreath.

Once you've done that, you can light the Advent wreath.

How to Light Your Advent Wreath

  1. Make the Sign of the Cross: As with any prayer or Catholic ritual, you should begin by making the Sign of the Cross.

  2. Light the Appropriate Number of Candles

    Many families have adopted the following custom:

    • The youngest child lights the candle in the first week.
    • The oldest child lights the candles in the second week.
    • The mother lights the candles in the third week.
    • The father light the candles in the fourth week.
  3. Pray the Advent Wreath Prayer for the Week: The father (or other leader) leads the family (or group) in the appropriate Advent Wreath Prayer for the week:

    • Advent Wreath Prayer for the First Week of Advent:  "Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we pray thee and come; that, defended by Thee, we may deserve rescue from approaching dangers brought on by our sins, and being set free by Thee, obtain our salvation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen."
    • Advent Wreath Prayer for the Second Week of Advent: "Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Thine only-begotten Son, that through His coming we may be worthy to serve Thee with purified minds. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen." 
    • Advent Wreath Prayer for the Third Week of Advent: "Incline Thine ear to our prayers, O Lord, we beseech Thee; and make bright the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen."
    • Advent Wreath Prayer for the Fourth Week of Advent: "Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we beseech Thee, and come; and with great power come to our aid, that, by the help of Thy grace, that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen."
  1. Leave the Advent Wreath Burning: Many families light the Advent wreath before dinner and leave it burning throughout dinner. You can also light it before private or family prayer, or before engaging in an Advent devotion such as the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena or daily Scripture readings for Advent. Dinnertime is a perfect time to incorporate one or both of those devotions into your Advent practices.

  1. Extinguish the Candles: After dinner and/or your Advent devotions, carefully extinguish all of the candles on the Advent wreath.

  2. End With the Sign of the Cross: As with all devotions, the lighting of the Advent wreath should end with the Sign of the Cross

Safety Tips for Lighting the Advent Wreath

Be careful when lighting and extinguishing the Advent wreath, especially if your wreath is made from actual evergreen boughs. If any of the boughs begin to look too dry, remove them and replace them with fresh boughs. Use of battery-operated candles is a safer alternative.