How Do You Light an Advent Wreath?

Step-by-step instructions

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

The Advent Wreath: A Popular Custom

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. (You can learn more about the history and use of the Advent wreath in Preparing for Christmas With the Advent Wreath.)

The Blessing of the Advent Wreath

Before lighting it for the first time, you should bless your Advent wreath. Once you've done that, read on for directions on how to light the Advent wreath.

What You Need

  • An Advent wreath
  • Matches or a lighter

How to Light Your Advent Wreath

  1. Make 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.
  1. 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:

  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.)

  2. Extinguish the Candles

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

  3. 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.

Tips

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.