Christmas Traditions: The Pink Candle

Among circles that still celebrate Advent, one can still find the tradition of an Advent wreath.  One can even find it in some Protestant churches that have abandoned essentially all other traditions: a wreath with three purple candles, one pink one, and a white one in the middle.  One is lit each of the four weeks of advent.  The center one is lit on Christmas day.

It’s a mark of how rare this tradition has become that it is virtually impossible to find matching candles in pink and a suitable royal purple.  Jordan and I looked all over last year, but only managed to find a rosy purple and a near-identical rosy pink.

The symbolism of the lit candles is self-evident.  Purple, the liturgical color of advent, is a symbol of royalty and also has undertones of penitence, which used to be a part of Advent as it is of Lent.  Some churches, such as the Anglican church, have switched to using blue candles to represent that Advent is a time of hopeful anticipation.  White is the only possible color for the central Christ candle.  But why is one of the candles pink?

In churches where the four candles represent hope, peace, joy, and love, such as the Catholic church, the pink candle represents joy and is lit on the third week.  In other churches, it is lit on the fourth week, though its joy symbolism remains the same.  Its origins trace back to the sister season of Lent.  Even in the Medieval Catholic church, forty days was a long time to spend being solemn, so the fourth Sunday of Lent was designated a celebration of the coming joy of Easter.  The priest would wear pink vestments and give one of the parishioners a pink rose.  The pink color translated to a week partway through Advent to similarly represent the anticipation of the joy of Jesus’ birth.

Some links on the subject:

http://www.crivoice.org/cyadvent.html

http://thereligionteacher.blogspot.com/2009/12/why-is-third-sunday-of-advent-pink-why.html

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