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What is a German "Advent Wreath"?

During the weeks before Christmas, there is one thing that you'll find in (almost) every living room in Germany: the Advent Wreath.

But what is an Advent wreath and why is it so popular?

You'll find out all about it in this article!

What does "Advent" actually mean?

The word "Advent" comes from Latin: "Adventus" means "arrival".

For Christians, Advent is the time in which they wait for the arrival of Jesus Christ, i.e. for Christmas.

In Germany, Christmas is celebrated on December 25th and 26th.

The four Sundays before Christmas are called "Advent Sundays":

  • The Sunday 4 weeks before Christmas = the 1st advent

  • The Sunday 3 weeks before Christmas = the 2nd advent

  • The Sunday 2 weeks before Christmas = the 3rd advent

  • The Sunday before Christmas = the 4th advent

What is an Advent Wreath?

An Advent Wreath is basically a wreath that is traditionally made from fir branches.

It is decorated with 4 candles: one for each Advent Sunday.

When was the first Advent wreath made?

The Advent Wreath was invented in Hamburg in 1839 by the theologian Johann H. Wichern.

It came about like this:

In 1833 Wichern founded a children's home: the "Rauhe Haus". There, "difficult" children from poor families were cared for and found a loving home.

These children kept asking, "How much longer do we need to wait untill Christmas?"

Wichern had an idea! He took a wagon wheel and put candles on it.

For the 4 Sundays in Advent, he took large white candles.

For every other day from the first Advent to Christmas Eve, he took small red candles.

Wichern Adventskranz

On Sunday, the 1st of Advent, he lit a white candle. The next day, a Monday, he lit the white candle again and, in addition, a small red candle.

On Tuesday he lit the white candle and two red candles.

Another candle was lit each day.

That way, the children could see how quickly time flew until Christmas.

More people heard about this idea and loved it! From Hamburg, the Advent Wreath quickly spread throughout the German-speaking region.

How do you make an Advent Wreath?

These days, a traditional Advent Wreath looks different:

It consists of fresh fir or spruce branches. Tie them together with green wire so that they form a circle.

Using a wreath of straw around which these branches are tied, is best.

You can buy the straw wreath ready-made.

Four special candle holders with pins are attached to the top. The candles are then put onto them.

Traditionally, red or white candles are used for this.

Finally, the Advent Wreath is decorated:

for example with bows, pine cones, cinnamon sticks, stars ... simply with everything you like that is Christmassy.

And there it is - your Advent Wreath!

Of course, you can also buy the Advent Wreath ready-made. In supermarkets or flower shops you can find beautiful wreaths in all sizes.

Are there also modern Advent Wreaths?

Of course, an Advent Wreath doesn't need to be made of fir or spruce branches. It is also available in wood, metal, glass, and many other materials.

And it doesn't have to be a wreath either. The candles can also be put next to each other.

Of course, the candles can have any color that matches you decoration.

Everything is possible - the most important thing is the idea and the joy of Christmas!

When do you light the candles?

Each Sunday, you light one more candle:

  • 1st Advent: one candle is burning.

  • 2nd Advent: two candles are burning.

  • 3rd Advent: three candles are burning.

  • 4th Advent: three candles are burning.

Often the candles are already lit during breakfast time.

Or in the afternoon when it gets dark outside and the whole family is celebrating Advent.

How is Advent celebrated?

Advent is best celebrated with the whole family. Everyone will sit comfortably around the Advent Wreath. There will be delicious Christmas cookies and you'll sing Christmas carols. Maybe there'll be even a musical instrument played along with the singing!

Or you can just listen to Christmas music and have a chat.

It is so cozy and comfortable that you feel completely Christmassy!



Now you know everything about the traditions around the Advent Wreath in Germany.

And you'll surely understand why it is so important for Germans:

It's not just the Advent Wreath itself. It's also the scent of spices, the traditional cookies, the atmospheric music, and, above all, being with the people you love most.


Would you like to practice your German?

Read this blog post in German - there is a list of words that might be new for you (plus their translation). That way you'll easily improve your reading skills!


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