Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Traditionz (wreath)

The Christian ceremony of Advent -the four Sundays preceding Christmas- is also rooted in Paganism.

The Advent Wreath is Symbolic of Survival, Light and Hope.

Advent is practiced with a wreath of greens, a living circle, containing candles successively lit throughout the Advent period. It is the time of waiting in darkness for the coming of the light that ties the so-called Christian observance of Advent to ancient paganism.

The circular Advent Wreath and its candles are pre-Christian. They are both a Pagan practice absorbed into Christianity, like many other Pagan rites as Christian conversion spread across Europe.The Advent Wreath originated with the ancient Celtic people of Germany and Scandinavia. Their worship practices were tied to the rhythms of the earth, with the sun holding a central place of importance.

At the Winter Solstice, (the day with the shortest amount of daylight Dec. 21st-25th) the Celts prayed for the sun’s return and the reassurance that spring would come.

The centerpiece of their rituals was the living wreath, either formed of evergreens or with a cartwheel woven with evergreens. The evergreen wreath or wheel symbolized the unending rotation of the seasons. The evergreen lived steadfastly through the winter darkness. Lighted candles set within the wreath or wheel brought light to the darkness. This space within the circle was considered a sacred space. Altar candles were long used in Pagan rites, just as they are in Pagan practice today, before they became a part of Christian worship.

The Wreath was usually displayed indoors. The decorated cartwheel with its candles might have been hung like a chandelier. The wreath might also adorn a table or altar.

With very little change the symbol of light in the darkness, rebirth of the sun, was easy to use to fuse together with the birth of the Son of God bringing the light to the world.

It appears that the Christian descendants of the Pagan Celts in Europe naturally incorporated their continued use of the wreath in their winter Christian practices. The first official church use of the Advent Wreath did not occur until the early 1800s.

"No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13).

May the Lord add a blessing to the consideration of His Word.


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