Word of the Week: Adventskranz

Dec 11, 2015

With the holidays upon us, let's take a look at a German word you'll hear frequently every December: Adventskranz.

Adventskranz Enlarge image (© colourbox) An Adventskranz is an Advent wreath. This is a tabletop wreath that holds four candles - marking the four weeks before Christmas. In Germany, it is a Christian tradition to light a candle each Sunday before Christmas, starting with just one candle on the first Sunday, two on the second Sunday, etc. On the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit at the same time.

Lighting the Adventskranz creates a countdown to Christmas.

Although many Christians have an Adventskranz in their homes, the concept originated in 16th century Germany. Protestant Pastor Johann Hinrich Wichern is credited for inventing the wreath. The pastor had founded a mission school (called Rauhes Haus) in Hamburg, and kids at the school would ask him daily how much longer until Christmas. In 1839, as a result of the children's questions', he built a large wooden ring with 20 red candles and four white candles. Each day in the weeks before Christmas, he would light a candle (white ones were lit on Sundays). And his invention stuck: churches across Germany began adopting the tradition, and the custom even spread to North America in the 1930s. The wooden ring evolved to become a wreath, and people typically use four candles instead of 24.

Adventskranz Enlarge image (© dpa) Travel to Germany during the holidays and we're sure you'll see Adventskränze all over the place, including grocery stores, Christmas markets and people's homes!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

© Germany.info

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