20 December 2012 a post by Matthew Arnold

Advent Ritual Wreath

Bring nature inside with a wreath made from four iconic and symbolic evergreen plants. You can either make a simple table centrepiece or make a wreath that will form the centre of a series of rituals leading up to Christmas, ideally through the period of advent – originally made for East Midlands Forest Church.

The simple wreath just sits round a central candle but the ritual wreath has another four candles at the cardinal points. For instructions and liturgy for the rituals during Advent (normally on each Sunday but any time is ok), see below.

If you make the wreath with the materials listed below, it should be fully compostable. Alternatively you can make the wreath around an oasis or chicken wire and moss ring.

Building your Advent wreath - you will need:

advent wreath

  • Six or seven willow withies, or similar (dogwood, hazel, broom etc), to form the basic ring.
  • Natural fibre string or cordage that you’ve made.
  • 1 platter or tray big enough to hold the ring and a couple of inches either side.
  • 1 white candle and holder that fits within the centre of the wreath (people may have their own candles and holders at home).
  • Yew, fir, ivy and holly branches collected previously or as part of the activity (use gardening gloves to protect your hands – about 3 small branches of each plant should be enough for each wreath).
  • 1 red, green, yellow, blue candle if you’re wanting to do the ritual wreath.
  • Screwdriver to help poke branches and candles between the withies.

Begin making the willow ring using the withies (and string if you need it). If you’re making this for the ritual wreath, it needs to be strong enough to hold the four candles upright.

Once the basic ring is finished, make up the wreath using the greenery you’ve collected, weaving the stems into the willow ring.

Start with the Yew and pine around the edges and then the holly and ivy on top. Fill any gaps with pieces of fir and yew.

For the ritual wreath, place the green candle securely between the withies at the north position, the blue goes at the south, the red goes west and the yellow east.

Place the candle holder into the centre of the oasis and put the white candle into it. If you’re making the simple wreath, you can explore the symbolism of the materials you’ve used and their meaning and links to the story of Advent.

The yew - is an ancient symbol of eternal life, or survival after death which explains why it is often found in graveyards. The longevity of the yew extends into perpetual life as the daughter shoots flourish around the mother tree as she gradually fades away.

The fir - can symbolise survival. Whilst the earth is at rest, the fir stands tall and proud against all that the winter season throws at it. It is a joyful scene to behold, the crunch of foot upon freshly laid snow, the impact of the fir’s silhouette dusted with sparkling white ice crystals. Pine resin itself is a refreshing fragrance and lifts our spirits when burned as an incense.

The holly - symbolises protection. It is whilst we are protected that we may experience peace. Will this season be a time of peace for us, amidst our consumerist culture? Holly, with its prickles, is also linked with Christ’s passion and reminds us that the story begun at Christmas ends with the Passion at Easter. 

The ivy - symbolises partnership. During this coming season, we are encouraged in our tradition to give gifts to each other to show our love and appreciation. Our consumerist culture attempts to link the amount of our love with the expense of the gift, a trap many fall into. How will we be able to show love to the world, human and non-human around us?

Links to PDFs to download.

Ritual one - Hope
Ritual two - Joy
Ritual three - Peace
Ritual four - Love
Ritual five - Christmas Eve

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