Advent wreaths have their origins in the traditions of northern Europe. During winter, people would light candles on wheel-shaped bundles of evergreen. The evergreen and the circular shape symbolised ongoing life. The candlelight gave comfort at this darkest time of year.
Christians adopted the practise of making wreaths hundreds of years ago. The wreaths which were made then were very similar to the Advent wreaths we have today. Advent wreaths help us to count down, and prepare for Christmas.
The circle of the wreath reminds us of God, His endless mercy which has no beginning and no end. The evergreen branches and leaves symbolise the everlasting life which God gives us. We also use holly which reminds us of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus.
An Advent wreath usually has four candles. The candles remind us that Jesus is the light of the World and that His coming drives out darkness. Three of the candles in the Advent wreath symbolise hope, peace and love. These candes are lit on the first, second and fourth Sundays of Advent.
The third candle in the Advent wreath symbolises joy and is usually lit on the thrid Sunday of Advent. Once the third candle is lit light is overcoming darkness and Christ's birth is near.