cooking. baking. recipes. eating out.

cooking. baking. recipes. home economics. eating out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Advent Wreath

Advent - the four weeks preceding Christmas - is really a fantastic season in the Christian calendar. It works well for those who love everything about what Americans know as the "holiday season" (me) and those who hate the commercial thrust of Christmas the second Halloween is over (me, too). It presents a terrific chance to let your inner rebel out and become, briefly, counter-cultural. Essentially, Advent gives you the rightful opportunity to reject those secular parts of the lead-up to Christmas that don't enhance your spirituality, or, in the words of St. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians, that don't "set your hope on Christ." After all, Advent in its most traditional understanding is a season of preparation. Finally, I will add that I like Advent because it permits me to actually celebrate the 12 days in the season of Christmas, right up to Epiphany on January 6. I always think it such a shame to go out Boxing Day morning and see countless Christmas trees already thrown out on the tree lawn. There are eleven more days to go! Though more and more parishes, both Protestant and Catholic, will display with more or less prominence an Advent wreath, it was originally, and remains, primarily an object for home devotions and prayers. Some families like to light the candles before having dinner and let them burn throughout. Others will light the candles briefly before saying their evening prayers, either alone or in a family setting. Since I am a self-avowed foodie, I prefer the option of lighting the candles before saying grace and then burning them through dinner. A proper Advent wreath will ordinarily have three purple candles and one pink candle. Some Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and low-church Lutherans and Episcopalians will also opt for four blue candles. Regardless, one additional candle is lit each week for the four weeks preceding Christmas until all four are burning on week four. The pink candle is lit on week three, or Gaudette Sunday. The pink symbolizes joy. Advent wreaths are also a fantastic craft and there's really not much of a way to mess one up. Since its components are largely natural, no strict rigidity is required. The wreath can be as plain or plush or sparse as you wish.

Here are the tools and supplies I use (and please forgive any incorrect or imprecise botanical language):

1 Advent wreath form

balsam branch clippings

juniper clippings
long-needle pine clippings

holly clippings

round pine cones

long pine cones

floral wire

small wire cutters

sturdy clippers for cutting branches

3 purple tapers

1 pink taper

purple ribbon, optional

The instructions and technique are quite simple. Clip several pieces of floral wire to about 3 inches. (You will need to clip more once you use these up.) Use these wires to attach the branches to the Advent wreath form. If you are unsure how to do this, the easiest way it to make all your greenery point in one direction, such as clockwise. Start in one place on the wreath, add one piece and then continue around the wreath until you come full circle. You can then add to fill in an any empty or sparse places.
Once the greenery is attached, you can tie wire to the pinecones and attach them, as well. Finish with the Advent candles and, if you wish, some purple ribbon. (I left the ribbon off this year for no good reason other than simplicity.)

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