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As Catholics, we need to make sure that when we celebrate Advent and Christmas, our focus is on Jesus Christ, and the world should know that we are celebrating Jesus.

The Meanings Behind Our Advent Traditions

by | Nick's Notes

Advent is a Latin Rite Catholic liturgical season of preparation for Christmas, and is the beginning of the liturgical year. This period of preparation covers the span of four Sundays. The first Sunday may be as early as the 27th of November, making Advent have 28 days, or as late as December 3rd, giving the season only 21 days. To mark the four Sundays of Advent, four candles arranged as a wreath are used. The flame symbolizes Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world. The circle wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of God. The evergreen color represents Christ’s salvific victory over spiritual death, giving us new life. The meaning of the candle colors is as follows:

Purple Candles: The color purple/violet is used to mark the liturgical season of Advent, signifying anticipation for the coming of Jesus as king, and purification and penance. Purple is an ancient, traditional royal color.

Rose Candle: The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. The name comes from the Latin: “Gaudete in Domino semper”, which roughly translates to: “rejoice in the Lord always.” These were the opening words of the Antiphon of the Latin Mass on the third Sunday of Advent. As an option, the celebrant of the Mass could wear rose-colored vestments, to symbolize joy. In the Advent wreath, the third candle is rose-colored for this reason.

The reason we have four weeks of Advent, is because four Sundays symbolize the 4000 years before the coming of the Messiah.  At the start of each week of Advent, a new candle is lit, marking the time as we come closer to the birth of our Lord Jesus, who is the Light of the World. Sometimes a fifth candle is placed in the center of the wreath. If the fifth candle is used, this candle is white and is lit on Christmas Day. This white candle represents the Light of the World that is now here, and is re-lit every day of the 12 Days of Christmas. Each of the four weeks of Advent has a specific spiritual focus. According to the “Office of Readings” (from the “Liturgy of the Hours”), the meaning of the candles is as follows:

Purple Candle 1: The first candle represents the Coming of Faith to those of the Old Testament like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These people would have received faith prior to the actual written record we now call the Old Testament.

Purple Candle 2: The second candle represents the Coming of Jesus in Bethlehem. Again, this happens prior to any written texts which we now call the New Testament – which will not exist together as a collection of writings approved by the Church until hundreds of years later.

Rose Candle 3: The third candle represents the Coming of Christ in the Seven Sacraments.The seven sacraments are instituted by Christ. To learn more about the sacraments, check out my books on the sacraments, which can be found on Amazon and iBooks. These two books are titled, “Holy Mysteries: Reflections on the Sacraments”, and “Sacraments of Initiation: Intimacy This Side of Heaven”.



Purple Candle 4: The fourth candle represents The Second Coming of Christ. For an in-depth look about the End Times, and the second coming of Jesus Christ, check out “Trial, Tribulation and Triumph: Before, During and After Antichrist,” by Desmond A. Birch.

Advent and Christmas are great opportunities to reflect on what it means to be a ManHusbandDad and to live out the Twelve Righteous Virtues, which we live out through our baptismal priesthood. At our baptism and confirmation, we share into Christ’s mission of priest, prophet, and king. Husbands and Dads become the head of their family, through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Because of this important truth about marriage, ManHusbandDads have a specific spiritual role to play to their wives and children.

A married man who is a Catholic has the responsibility to make sure that the Catholic faith is lived out in his family. As the Husband and Dad he is the image of Christ through the sacraments, and it is his responsibility to make sure that his wife and children grow in holiness, by being a witness to the truths of the Catholic faith, in season, and out of season. Although the Domestic Church (i.e., the family) should always be practicing devotions, Advent is a special season which enables the family to enter more deeply in spiritual preparation for Christmas, by increasing one’s devotional life.

A ManHusbandDad needs to first be a witness to the Catholic faith every day of the year, by living out the beauties of our Faith, before being able to encourage a spirit filled preparation for Christmas. It is important to stress that a ManHusbandDad should always be encouraging his family to live out a faith filled Advent and Christmas, Temperate in his demands in that encouragement. A man can and should be Just and Merciful in encouraging a devotional life to be lived out in his family, since he is the head of the household; but not to the point where the Catholic faith becomes a chore and burdensome to the family. A ManHusbandDad needs to guide his family to a closer relationship with Jesus, by presenting the truths of the Catholic Church, and living out the devotions with Love. Each family is unique, and it is the responsibility of a ManHusbandDad to know what the spiritual growth is of his wife and children, in order to provide proper guidance in how to properly spiritually prepare for Christmas.

If it is a family custom, a ManHusbandDad should not deny his children the joy of Santa Claus while at the same time making sure that his children understand that the meaning of and reason for Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ. Part of being Catholic is to enjoy our local and regional cultural customs, and there are many wonderful things about Christmas from the secular world.

As Men, we just need to make sure that when we celebrate Christmas, our focus is on Jesus Christ, and the world should know that we are celebrating Jesus, not Santa Claus. Properly put into perspective, Santa Claus – Saint Nicholas – should point to Jesus as all saints do.

Happy New Liturgical year! May you have a blessed Advent, and a Merry Christmas!

What are your Advent traditions?


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Nicholas Kovacs, OFS

Nicholas Kovacs, OFS

HOO™ Writer | Catechist | Independent Author

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