The history of the Adventskranz (Advent wreath) Posted by jan on Dec 15, 2010 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.
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.