As regular readers know, I’ve slowly been trying to incorporate observances of the Liturgical Year into my life, to help bring more consciousness to the Holy. (As a Mennonite/Evangelical, it’s been a challenging undertaking.)
This year, I was really eager to start using an Advent wreath during the season of Advent. (For newbies like me: an Advent wreath sits on a table — usually your dining table — and holds four candles, for the four weeks of Advent. You generally light them before dinner, along with a prayer.)
Starting out, I knew I wanted a few things.
First off, I wanted to use beeswax candles. Conventional paraffin candles are always problematic, as they fill the air with toxins as they burn; but I especially wanted to use something safer when it came to candles we’d be burning near our faces and our food. I didn’t like the thought of inhaling carcinogens as we prayed and meditated on the coming of our Lord.
Yes, they cost way more than dollar-store candles. But beeswax is known to emit negatively-charged ions and actually clean your air of allergens and toxins (rather than further pollute your home). Plus they smell nice and aren’t made from petroleum, a gross, non-renewable resource. Moreover, the rest of my wreath was basically free, so I don’t mind the extra cost for the candles.
(If you’re curious about the symbolism behind the candle colours, read more here.)
Second, I knew I wanted to make my own Advent wreath. In part, because I don’t even know where you could get an affordable Advent wreath; and second, because it seemed like a fun and easy project. (Random side note: isn’t it a little strange that we could probably all name a dozen places from which we could buy a Christmas tree in the month of December, but probably not a single place where we could get an Advent wreath? Lame. Our traditions are kind of messed up.)
Anyway, I searched the internet (especially Pinterest) for some DIY ideas, and found a bit of inspiration.
I came across a lot attractive wreaths that had a styrofoam base. Others used plastic foliage or flowers. I didn’t love the idea of using nonrenewable resources like that. Again, it didn’t feel right worshiping the Prince of Peace using a tool made from materials that contributed to the destruction of the world he came to save.
I went to Hobby Lobby to look for materials and candlesticks, but wasn’t totally satisfied. I only came home with a $4 10-inch grapevine wreath (which I could have made myself, because I have wild grapes growing in my back yard. If I could do it over, I would take that route — I’m slightly unhappy with the realization that the one I bought was probably shipped over from China. Totally unnecessary.)
I decided to get creative and use as many natural, recycled, and/or scavenged resources as possible. Besides, I remembered that Advent wreaths were originally made from things like evergreen branches, and in fact there’s a lot of symbolism attached to using greenery. (Evergreens symbolize continuous life. The circle of the wreath represents the eternity of God and the everlasting life found in Christ. Together, the wreath is meant to remind us of eternal life.)
Since I couldn’t find any candlesticks to my liking, I found an old glass honey jar and anchored my candles in it with Epsom salt (to give it a snowy effect). I decorated it with some unbleached cotton cooking twine.
I went into my back yard with some pruning shears and gathered some greenery — some juniper and holly branches. I didn’t need much.
Then I just wove the branches into the grapevine base to create a full, green wreath.
It looked a little plain, so I dug out my stash of autumn stuff — pine cones and acorns I’d gathered on our nature walks — and hot-glued a few here and there. (Pine cones and other seeds also symbolize immortality).
I set the candle jar in the middle, and voila. My very own Advent wreath!
This year, we’re using the prayers I found here. They’re very short and simple, which is perfect when you’ve got a hungry toddler present at the table. These prayers also use language we’re used to, so we don’t feel like imposters trying to be Catholic.
And while I’m bragging about my crafty accomplishments (because that’s SO Jesus), allow me to show off the wreath I made for my door:
For this one, I did use grapevines from my back yard, as well as more juniper and holly branches. I hot-glued a few pine cones and acorns, and tied on a wooden letter Q with some raffia that fell off my autumn wreath. We ran out of branches with red berries, so I walked down the street and stole some berry branches from a neighbour’s yard. Just like Jesus would do. Wait, what?
*Please note that I am not an especially crafty person. Anyone could do this, I’m sure.*
Do you use an Advent wreath? Where did you get it, or did you make yours, too? What prayers do you use?