With the first Advent just around the corner, I thought it might be nice to talk about a German Christmas tradition that anyone can make to bring some European Christmas cheer to their holiday homes. The Advent wreath or as it is called in German, Adventskranz, is a wreath or tray holding four candles, one for each week of Advent. On the Sunday of each Advent another candle is lit right up to Christmas Day.
The Adventskranz is first lit on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Each year the actual date changes to the Liturgical year or church year. The Adventskranz in earlier times was lit while family and friends would gather around it to sing Christmas carols. It held great significance in a time when Christmas trees were only put up and decorated the night before Christmas because in those time real candles were used on live trees.
First Advent also signifies the start of the Christmas Markets or Christkindlmarkt. These warm and wonderful markets are the true highlight of the holiday season so for many in Europe First Advent is a magical date when friends gather in the glow of candle light and share in laughter, song and warm drinks.
Traditionally the Adventskranz was made using a ring shaped wreath form. These forms are available up at your local craft store. In these more modern times, people are thinking outside the box or should I say outside the ring and are using many different shapes and styles to create their wreaths.
For the more traditional wreath, you will need a straw or foam base, four candles and various decorative items to give it your own particular flare. I will try to show you two distinctly different styles of creating your Adventskranz, one traditional and the other a bit more modern which I use in my own house.
Living in Schliersee, I am blessed with an alpine location surrounded by pine trees, but many of you living in either city or country locations can also gather some natural branches for decorating from your local florist or craft center. The bringing in of live Evergreen has been done since ancient times so you will be keeping a great tradition alive. Plus the fresh pine smell fills your home and nothing smells more like Christmas.
Once you have your materials, gather the greens using the florist wire into small bunches like bouquets. Once you have 10 or 15 bunches lay them on the wreath to see if you have enough to cover the entire ring. If you find your bunches are not covering the form completely you can cover the form with wide ribbon. Wrapping it around the form until the entire surface is covered or you can even cover the form with extra flat greenery pieces. Just try to cover the surface evenly. Once you have achieved the covering you want, attach each bouquet to your wreath form using the wire. Over lap each bunch to create a so you can’t see where each begins and ends. This is repeated this until the entire form is covered. Many people like to add dried fruits, nuts or even Christmas ornaments using a glue gun. Add items to your own particular taste or just leave it natural. There are no hard and fast rules. At this point in the project you need to find a way to add your four Advent candles to your wreath. One easy fast way is to lay your wreath on a large plate or platter and in the center hole you stand your candles. Or if you can find candle spikes then use those.
If you think you lack the talent or time to put together an Adventskranz for yourself, my time saving idea might be perfect for you. Find a beautiful dish or tray that is big enough to hold your four candles and arrange your decorative items creatively. It is that simple. For my table I found a wrought iron tray that had four candle holders built right in making the job very easy. These type of decorative candle holders are widely available. While searching online for sources I also found pre-made forms using florist foam or oasis and they even included the candle holders all under $10. There really is no excuse for not bringing some German holiday cheer to your home this year.
American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).