The history of the Adventskranz (Advent wreath)

Posted on 15. Dec, 2010 by in Culture, Folklore, History, People, Traditions

To celebrate the pre-Christimas period and to get in touch with its atmosphere, the Advent wreath became an inherent part of German culture.

Although this christmassy piece of decoration doesn´t exist since a long time: In the year 1839, so the historical tradition, the first Advent wreath was set up by Johann Wichern. The evangelic-lutheran theologian and educater was the leader of the “Rauhes Haus”, a house in the suburbs of Hamburg that was and still is the home for children and teenagers without parents.  To show the children the way to Christmas, he had the idea of an Advent wreath: He decorated an old cartwheel with nineteen small red candles and four big white candles. Every day during Advent time, another small candle was lighted, a big one on every Sunday. So the children could count the days until Christmas.

(Object: Advent wreath, aka Adventskranz in its original design 1839, designed by Johann Hinrich Wichern. Source: Rauhes Haus, Hamburg, Germany)

Approximately 20 years later, director Wichern started to decorate the wheel additionaly with fir green. All the same, fir green has a long tradition in apartments that reaches back to the middle ages: Branches of juniper, mistletoes and firs symbolized unbroken power of life. The house or farm should be safe from harm.

And even the candles have their story: In the 14th century they were used as a symbol for newer and brighter times. The candles used to be red during the Advent time, allegorical for the blood that Jesus Christ shed for humanity.

From Hamburg, the Advent wreath started its triumphal procession out to the Christian world: In 1925 an Advent wreath with four candles was set up in a catholic church in Cologne for the first time. Since 1930 as well in Munich.

This tradition dispread worldwide until today. Around 1935 the first private Advent wreaths were churchly sanctified. This tradition also exists until today in some places.

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About jan

My name is Jan and I live in the south west of Germany. My profession is being a project manager at a company that creates digital media (first of all internet related things). This is my job since over a decade so I´m quite familiar with the web and its tools. Whereat today almost every school kid does. But that´s one of the main reasons why nowadays there are quasi no more limits in the internet and so it can be used for all imaginable types of things. For example learning languages! And that´s where we are at the moment. I first got in touch with Transparent Language when my family and I used to live in France a couple of years ago. I just had a break from work and by coincidence I produced some cultural videos in French. A few months later the whole blogging thing came up and I was lucky to be a part of it. So now my (second) job is to feed you with information, exercises, vocabulary, grammar and stories about Germany and German language. For being a passionate videographer I´m trying to do this more and more by videos. If you have any wishes or needs of topics that should be treated here, please don´t hesitate to contact me via a comment field. I´m open to your suggestions (as long as they are not too individual) and will try to satisfy your needs.

3 Responses to “The history of the Adventskranz (Advent wreath)”

  1. fredrick 15 December 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    we do not get forgotten our culture because the culture is very strong at the nation’s history
    i like it your history kingdom of germany

  2. Dennis 16 December 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    We celebrate advent too. Love this article.

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