A Full Guide to the Symbolism of Each Advent Candle

by Hyacinth

As the holiday season approaches, many Christian households and churches prepare for the celebration of Advent, a period of spiritual preparation leading up to Christmas. One of the most recognizable symbols of Advent is the Advent wreath, adorned with candles that are lit successively each week. Each candle holds its own significance, representing different aspects of the journey towards the birth of Christ. In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the rich symbolism behind each Advent candle, illuminating the deeper meanings that enrich this sacred tradition.

The Origins of the Advent Wreath

Before delving into the symbolism of the individual candles, it’s essential to understand the origins of the Advent wreath itself. The Advent wreath dates back to the 19th century in Germany, where Lutherans lit candles on a wreath made of evergreen branches as a symbol of hope and anticipation during the Advent season. Over time, this tradition spread to other Christian denominations and evolved into the familiar practice we know today.

The First Candle: Hope

The first candle lit on the Advent wreath symbolizes hope. It is often a purple candle, reflecting the penitential nature of the Advent season. Hope is a central theme throughout the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament prophecies foretelling the coming of the Messiah. This candle serves as a reminder of the hope we have in Christ’s coming, both in anticipation of his birth and in anticipation of his second coming. It is a beacon of light in the darkness, reminding believers that even in the midst of uncertainty and despair, there is always hope in God’s promises.

The Second Candle: Peace

The second candle, often lit on the second Sunday of Advent, represents peace. Like the first candle, it is typically purple, signifying the preparation and repentance associated with the Advent season. Peace is a central theme of the Gospel message, embodied in the birth of Jesus Christ, who is often referred to as the Prince of Peace. This candle reminds us of the peace that Christ brings into the world and into our lives, a peace that surpasses understanding and transcends earthly circumstances. It calls us to seek reconciliation with God and with one another, fostering harmony and goodwill in our relationships and communities.

The Third Candle: Joy

The third candle, lit on the third Sunday of Advent, is pink or rose-colored and represents joy. This candle marks a shift in tone from the solemnity of the preceding weeks to a sense of joyful anticipation. Joy permeates the Advent season as we draw closer to the celebration of Christ’s birth. It is a time of rejoicing in the fulfillment of God’s promises and the coming of the Savior. This candle reminds us that our hope and peace in Christ lead to true and lasting joy, a joy that is not dependent on external circumstances but springs from the depths of our hearts.

The Fourth Candle: Love

The fourth candle, lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent, symbolizes love. Like the previous candles, it is often purple, emphasizing the connection between love and the themes of preparation and repentance. Love lies at the heart of the Christian faith, embodied in the sacrificial love of Christ, who came into the world out of love for humanity. This candle reminds us of God’s boundless love for us and calls us to love one another as Christ has loved us. It challenges us to embody love in our thoughts, words, and actions, extending grace and compassion to all those we encounter.

The Fifth Candle: Christ

In some traditions, a fifth candle, often white, is placed in the center of the Advent wreath and lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This candle represents Christ himself, the culmination of the Advent journey. As the Light of the World, Christ illuminates the darkness of sin and death, offering salvation and eternal life to all who believe in him. This candle serves as a focal point for the Advent season, reminding us that Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises and the source of our hope, peace, joy, and love.


The symbolism of the Advent candles serves as a powerful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas and the significance of Christ’s birth. Each candle represents a different aspect of the journey towards the coming of the Savior: hope, peace, joy, love, and ultimately, Christ himself. As we light these candles each week during the Advent season, may we be drawn closer to God and to one another, as we prepare our hearts to receive the greatest gift of all—the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Let us continue to cherish and uphold this sacred tradition, passing it on from generation to generation, as a testament to our faith and our hope in the promises of God.

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