The four Sundays before Christmas are known as Advent, the first season of the liturgical year. An old tradition that comes down to us from Germany is the Advent wreath with four candles to light each Sunday (and sometimes a Christmas candle). Try this DIY Advent wreath with natural materials from the garden.
To make an Advent wreath you will need
- Candles. You may choose purple tapers or 3 blue candles and one pink. The Christmas candle can be a white pillar that you can set in the center of the wreath.
- Wet floral foam brick
- Greening pins
- Plastic candle cups with spike (or candle stakes)
- Floral oasis waterproof tape
- A large, flat, round dish with a lip. A pizza pan with sides can work. It must hold water.
- Sharp knife, garden secateurs or snips, gloves
- Large paper grocery bag full of leaves, berries, herbs, and flowers. (The paper bag isn’t required, but that’s about the volume of greenery you need).
- Before assembling your wreath, get outside and cut greenery. I like to use magnolia leaves for the base layer. Camellia, boxwood, juniper, fir, or non-prickly holly (ilex) can all be used. Berry bunches add some festive color, such as nandina, beauty berry, pyracantha, or American holly. Flowers and herbs are also nice to harvest: lavender, rosemary, rose buds, rose hips, and sasanqua camellias.
- Cut the floral foam brick in half through the middle of the 3-inch side. A serrated bread knife works well for this. The two halves should be about 9 x 4 x 1.5 inches.
- Lay the two pieces side by side. Use the U-shaped greening pins to connect them together on the top and sides.
- Use a round dish or bowl to trace out a circle in the center. You want to have about 2 inches of foam left at each side of the circle. Cut out the circle with the knife.
Note: if you want to use a Christmas pillar candle for the center, find a china or plastic dish that will hold the candle and fit in the circle. My guacamole bowl is just the right size!
- Use the greening pins to attach the pieces in the center.
- Use your tracing dish to lay on each outside corner and trace a rounded edge. Cut the corners. I don’t worry if it’s not exactly round, but you do need to make sure you’ve left enough space to insert the candle cups.
- Wrap the outside edge of the form with floral tape. Insert the candle cups evenly space around the center circle. Place the wreath in your round dish or pan.
- Insert your base greenery around the bottom of the foam. With magnolia leaves, I push them in at a diagonal. You may wish to use them brown side up.
- Insert your next set of greenery close to the top edge of the foam. These pieces should be cut slightly shorter than your base greens. I use camellias, boxwood, and rosemary for this layer.
- Fill in the upper side of the foam. Use greenery, lavender, berries, and flowers. These pieces should be 2 to 4 inches long. Keep the center circle mostly open along with access to the candle cups.
- Insert tapers into the candle cups. Pour water into the center circle and on top of the wreath, being careful not to spill out of the dish. It might take quite a bit the first time to thoroughly wet the foam. You will need to water the wreath once or twice a day.
- First Sunday of Advent from Catholic Culture
- What do the candles in our Advent wreath mean? From United Methodist Church
- Resources for Advent from the Episcopal Church
- Advent hymns and carols from The Hymns and Carols of Christmas
Let’s talk story
Gathering together to make these natural wreaths is a tradition at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. It’s a wonderful start to the season to make these wreaths in a social setting, sharing the work and greens with others. A note about the “school spirit” backgrounds in these photos: we were working on these wreaths in my dining room, so the table was covered with every vinyl tablecloth I have! The pink candle is lit the third Sunday, as a symbol of joy. Purple candles represent royalty and repentance. Blue signifies hope and waiting (I’ve also heard it’s the color of Mary’s cloak). At Casa Bouquet, we read an Advent story, say a blessing, and sing a hymn each Sunday at dinner. We like O come Emmanuel, Come thou long expected Jesus, and On Jordan’s bank. You can also listen to (or sing) Part I of The Messiah. You can search online for Advent wreath family activities to make your own tradition. I’ll look for questions in Comments or lisa[at]thecasabouquet[dot]com.
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