German Language Blog

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

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About the Author: 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.


  1. fredrick:

    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:

    We celebrate advent too. Love this article.

  3. Margit:

    Greetings Jan,

    Icame across your blog post while looking for information about the story of the adventskranz and came across your post. I noticed you have share links to twitter etc, but I would like to post it, with some minor changes, on my site. If you agree to allow me to post it, you will get the credit for the article. Let me know if I can do so.

    The site it will be posted is my contribution to society – to educate people about many things, including the history of Christmas.

    Thank you in advance for getting back with me.