Erst eins, dann zwei,
dann drei, dann vier,
dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.
[Advent, Advent, a little light is shining. First one, then two, then three, then four, then the Christ-child will stand at the door] goes a popular German nursery rhyme about Advent. It’s difficult to translate it properly without going into some details about how this season is celebrated in Germany. The first thing I should explain is the Christkind, the Christ-child. If you ask a German child about who brings them their Christmas presents, you’ll most likely get one of three answers. Some children are convinced that it is the Christ-child (not to be confused with the Christ Child, Baby Jesus), a child with golden locks and angelic wings, who delivers all the good children’s gifts, but only if they are not looking. Others believe in Santa Claus, because the idea of an old bearded man whose preferred mode of transportation is a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer is just too good to ignore – in many parts of the world (did you see Klaus on Netflix? The duck and I thoroughly enjoyed this slightly different take on Santa’s origin story). The third kind of answer stands for a loss of innocence and the belief in magic. Let’s leave it at that. This should explain the Christkind part of the poem. Next are the four lights that precede the Christkind‘s magical emergence at your door. Look! This is the duck and my poor person’s version of the lights. I like it; the duck seems to, as well. This is to show that no budget is too low, no head too stubborn, no Sunday too closed shops (um…), for an Advent wreath, the topic of today’s post:
Four candles also make a lovely light
It seems that the Christian tradition of lighting candles within an Advent wreath originated in Germany some centuries ago. The first candle is lit on the First Sunday of Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas (the mathematically gifted among you will already have figured out that that Sunday can be between November 27th and December 3rd. If you’re lazy like us, an internet search is the way to go). Each subsequent Sunday an additional candle is lit, so that on the Fourth Sunday of Advent all four candles are illuminated (of course they don’t stay lit throughout the 4+ weeks; that would require an enormous candle budget, or very tall candles, and ideally an insurance clause that includes Advent wreath related fires).
Advent wreaths are pretty popular in Germany, even among those who are not religious at all, for that special Christmas feel. Some people make their own Advent wreath each year. Those who are not botanically and creatively gifted need not worry, though. Around mid- to late November lots of stores start stocking wreaths in various styles and colors to fit your personal preference and interior design standards. The duck and my personal ‘wreath’ nearly made us forget what we suspect to be the main reason for such comparatively late sales: you wouldn’t want to celebrate the Advent season with a dying plant, so, the fresher the wreath is on the first Sunday, the better. Cool! Nobody needed us to explain that.Look! This is a photo we took of a typical Advent wreath at a grocery store in our neighborhood. As you can tell by the duck and my Advent wreath-like constellation, however, an Advent wreath doesn’t really have to look like the traditional fir branch ring with four candles on top. There are wreaths made of metal, some that are not even wreath shaped, but straight, with the candles standing in a line, and, if you want the fancy version of the duck and my ‘wreath’ how about getting numbered candles (or, for the DIY enthusiasts, how about… numbering them yourselves?!) that you can arrange however you please.
Do you have any favorite holiday traditions?
Ours sure is Christmas baking, but we’ll get to that some other day.
Some silly people might wonder why we didn’t write about Advent wreaths last week, on the First Sunday of Advent. Well, that also happened to be the first day on our Advent calendar and whenever the duck and I have a choice between tea and, well, no tea… there is no need to finish this sentence.
We will finish this post with the (semi-official?) conclusion of the nursery rhyme:
Und wenn das fünfte Lichtlein brennt,
dann hast du Weihnachten verpennt.
[And when the fifth little light is shining, you slept through Christmas.]