What Is the Meaning Behind Each of the Four Advent Candles?

Advent candles are lit in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but do you know what each candle represents? Each Advent candle has special religious significance

By Petal Mashraki
Edited by Taj Schlebusch

Published October 11, 2021.

"Advent" means the coming of Christ, or the second coming, so the period leading up to Christmas is known as Advent. It is the first season of the Christian church year. On each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas, an Advent candle is lit. The 4 candles of Advent names are hope, love, joy, and peace, representing the virtues Jesus brought us.

Read why it matters what the colors of Advent candles are.

What Do the Four Candles of Advent Symbolize Together?

During Advent, we prepare ourselves spiritually for the anniversary of Christ's birth. But what do the Advent candles represent together?

The four Advent candles are arranged on a circular Advent wreath, with no beginning or end, reminding us of the eternity of God's love and the everlasting love we find in Jesus. Together the Advent candles are a reminder of God's promise to us of salvation through Christ. The wreath is placed in a prominent position in the home - at the front door or on a window sill so that all can see it, and can be a constant reminder of Advent.

Why Advent Candles Are Purple, Pink, and White?

The Advent candles' meaning is reinforced by the color of the candles. The order of Advent candle colors takes us from repentance to the celebration of Christ's birth.

The first two Advent candles are usually purple, which is a liturgical color. This is the period at the beginning of Advent when we are in repentance and contemplation of our sins.

Why is the third advent candle pink, you may wonder?

Well, the meaning of the pink Advent candle is joy and comes before the final white candle, which represents Christ's purity and love.

The Color of Advent Candles in Other Traditions

There are other traditions that include different colored candles. Orthodox Christians use an Advent wreath of color candles-green, blue, gold, white, purple, and red. Different Christian denominations use a different number of candles of different colors. Advent candles Catholic tradition often uses violet and rose-colored candles, like the color of liturgical vestments.

The Four Advent Candles

First Advent Candle - Hope

The first candle symbolizes a shining light in anticipation of the coming of Christ. It is usually a purple candle and can be called the Prophecy Candle. It represents God's forgiveness of man's sins. Purple is traditionally the most important of the Advent candle colors. It is the color of liturgical garments used for vestments and is associated with prayer, contemplation, repentance, and hope.

Second Advent Candle - Love

The second candle, or Bethlehem Candle, is also usually purple or violet. It reminds us of the Holy Family's experience in Bethlehem. The color of the second Advent candle is associated with royalty and reminds us that Christ is the "King of Kings." We await the coming of a new king from Bethlehem.

Third Advent Candle - Joy

The third candle is the Shepherd's Candle, as we remember to rejoice in Christ's birth, like the shepherds on the first Christmas Eve. It is also called Gaudette Sunday from the Latin Philippians 4:4,5 " rejoice in the Lord always." The 3rd candle is usually pink or rose-colored. Pink is associated with joy, and it is on the third Sunday of Advent,t we turn from repentance towards the celebration of Christ's imminent birth.

Fourth Advent Candle - Peace

The final Advent candle marks the beginning of the final week before Christmas and is a time of prayer. It is also called the Angel's Candle and is a white candle representing purity, peace, and justice brought to the world by Christ. The white candle also reminds us that Christ is sinless and pure.

Advent Candle Wreaths

You can hang an Advent wreath on your door and light each candle on the appropriate Sunday. A white candle in the middle of the wreath is lit on Christmas Day and represents the light Jesus brings to us. Place an Advent wreath in your home as a way to keep Christ at the center of Christmas celebrations. Lighting the Christmas Advent candles also offers an opportunity to teach children about Christ.