The Advent Wreath
Wreaths are used by Christians fairly early in the medieval period and specifically Advent wreaths first appear in the 16th century and become common in Catholic homes over the next two hundred years. They represent the two-fold understanding of Advent mentioned above. The circle of the wreath represents eternal life as does the use of evergreens. There are four candles: three purple and one pink or rose. The three purple candles reflect the penitential and preparatory nature of the season (also mentioned above). On the first two Sundays of Advent we light two of the purple candles. On the third Sunday of Advent we light the rose candle. This third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday and the lighter color represents a lightening of the mood, a focus on the joy to come. The final purple candle is lit on the final week of the Season.
The light of the four candles also represents the light of Christ, the light in the darkness, light of the world. Some Advent wreaths especially represent the light of Christ by adding a fifth white candle that is lit on Christmas Eve.