Advent, Advent, a little light is burning. But before the first candle can shine brightly, the traditional Advent wreath first has to be made, or rather tied. "Isn't it called an 'Advent wreath'?", some people are probably asking themselves. That is correct, but only in part. Because while in Germany and Switzerland the Advent wreath is spelt with an s, in Austria it is simply called an Advent wreath.
Even though the green wreath has become an integral part of the (pre-)Christmas season, its history goes back less far than you might think. Less than 200 years ago, the Protestant pastor Johann Hinrich Wichern came up with the idea of shortening the waiting time for Christmas for Hamburg's street children. To do this, he converted a wagon wheel and attached four large white candles for Sundays and six red candles in between for the other days. This way, the children not only knew how many days were left until Christmas Eve, but also learnt how to count at the same time.
The so-called Wichern Advent wreath, which is reminiscent of an Advent calendar, quickly developed into today's familiar Advent wreath made of fir greenery with four candles for each Sunday. Towards the end of the 19th century, the new version travelled from Hamburg to the German-speaking south, and in 1925 the once Protestant wreath was hung in a Catholic church for the first time. From the end of the Second World War, the Advent wreath finally became widespread.
Tie & design your own Advent wreath
Fortunately, the Advent wreath had already evolved by the 19th century, so we don't need a wagon wheel as a basis. An Advent wreath as we know it today is made up of very simple components: a straw wreath, fir branches (or a mixture of other coniferous branches), floral wire, flower pins/patent pins, decorations and four candles - all available from DIY stores or florists.
Step 1: The green wreath
Before tying the Advent wreath, the brushwood should be sorted a little: Thick branches can be shortened if necessary, long, fine branches make a good base. Small twigs are ideal if a few "holes" need to be filled in the wreath at the end.
And then it's time to get started: the strong end of the first branch is fixed to the straw wreath with a pin, the rest of the branch is tied to the wreath with florist's wire. Before reaching the end of the branch, push the next branches under the first greenery and secure their ends well hidden with a flower pin. The floral wire holds the rest of the branches in shape. The straw wreath is wrapped branch by branch with brushwood - but please leave the underside uncovered so that the wreath has a straight and stable support surface.
If you have opted for mixed brushwood, you should also make sure that the different branches are distributed evenly around the wreath. Incidentally, the floral wire can be wonderfully hidden under smaller branches.
If you haven't had much practice tying Advent wreaths, the straw wreath may still show through a little here and there. In this case, small twigs are ideal for plugging such "holes". In most cases, you can simply stick them into the already fixed brushwood and the wreath will look much tighter.
Step 2: The candles
Once the green wreath is ready, it's time to place and secure the candles. Traditionally, the candles are arranged in a square, but there is nothing to stop them being placed next to each other in the Advent wreath. It is important that the candles are well secured. The easiest way to do this is to buy ready-made candle holders in the right size. Alternatively, you can make your own candle holders or insert a thick wire directly into the candle (simply heat the wire with a flame - note: please use gloves and pliers to prevent burns).
In the Catholic Church in particular, it is customary to use three purple and one pink candle - corresponding to the liturgical colour of Advent. However, the colours red (as a symbol of love) and white are also traditional. Nowadays, however, there are no limits to the choice of colour: whether green, blue or black, anything is possible.
Step 3: The decoration
The decoration of the Advent wreath is also purely a matter of taste. Simple natural products such as nuts, pine cones, cinnamon sticks, dried fruit or berries are often used. Depending on their nature, the decorative components are attached with floral wire, flower pins or ribbons. A hot glue gun can often help, too. Otherwise, there is only one rule when it comes to decorations: use whatever you like. From dried flowers to feathers and bows to small figurines, anything goes.
Make your own Advent wreath - shopping list:
- Straw wreath
- Fir branches (also a mixture of branches from other conifers)
- green floral wire
- Flower arrangement pins/patent pins
- 4 candles
- Fastening for the candles: plug-in coasters or thick wire
- Decoration as desired
- Good to have: secateurs, gloves, pliers, possibly a hot glue gun