The Advent wreath is a popular custom in Catholic homes and churches. It consists of a circle or a swag of evergreen branches and four candles, three purple one pink, the light of which signifies the light of Christ which will come into the world at Christmas. In the Catholic faith, the Advent wreath is typically blessed by the head of the household or by a priest if possible. It is used to count the four weeks of the liturgical season of Advent in anticipation of the Christmas season which begins on the evening of December 24th. During Advent, purple candles are lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent. The color purple signifies penitence. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday and it signifies Joy. Each week has its own themes associated with them that are reflected universally through the liturgy of the Word in the Catholic Church. Advent is a season of preparation and anticipation in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. Traditionally, Catholics treat this season like a "little lent" with fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. These wreathes originated in the Lutheran Church of Germany (who use blue instead of purple, I believe) and were adopted by the Protestant and Catholic Churches in the 16th century.
If you are looking for a way to scale back and put Christmas in its proper time, the Advent Wreath is a good tradition to begin for the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.
Certainly you can use just about any kind of material to make an Advent wreath, but I like to make mine with fresh greenery. It looks nice, smells good, and creates no plastic waste. In this Instructable I will show you how to turn your tree clippings into a wreath or garland with just twine and florist wire.
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
To make an Advent wreath using fresh greenery you will need:
- Fresh greenery: Fir, cedar, yew, rosemary, holly, just about any kind of evergreen bough will do. Depending on the length of your garland and how full you would like the wreath to be, you may need a lot of branches. I used a mix of cedar, rosemary, holly, and gallberry bush.
- A word about berries - it's better to leave them off the wreath. Holly berries will shrivel, turn brown and they fall off anyway. They are also toxic if ingested and will stain your carpet or table linens if a child decides to squish them. If you want a pop of contrast color in a berry shape, look for seed pods that have already dried out to add to your wreath. I left the gallberries on my wreath as an experiment to see what they'll do because Its my first time using them. Small pinecones and acorns still on branches are an option as well.
- I do not recommend using long or short leaf pine. It will not stay green for four weeks. It will yellow within a week unless you keep it constantly moist. For a table arrangement, that just isn't practical.
- Christmas tree lots are a great source for evergreens. Just ask them if you can have the branches they've trimmed off the bottoms of the trees they've sold. They are just going to throw them away or give them to some lady who owns goats. Sometimes the home improvement stores have a large box of trimmings. Just ask if you can take them! But get there before the goat lady does... Don't forget to bring a box or a bag with you so you do not get sap in your car.
Terminology: Frequently throughout this instructable, I will refer to the wreath as a garland because that is exactly what it is until you tie the two ends of the garland together to make it a wreath.
Step 2: Begin by Measuring the Size of Wreath You'll Need and Preparing Your Twine.
Time to do some math!
The Advent wreath forms that you can buy at the craft store have a 12.5" diameter. To figure out the circumference, multiply the diameter by pi (3.15), then round up the answer to the next inch.
12.5 * 3.15 = 39.375 or 40 inches.
For this example, you will need a piece of twine that is 40" long.
Fig 1: Prep your twine by first making a loop in the end and tying an over hand knot.
Fig 2: Measure your twine starting at the knot. Make a loop at the end, and tie it off at the length you need with another overhand knot. Then cut the excess twine, freeing the length you're working with from the spool.
At the end of this step, you should have one length of twine with a loop on each end.
Step 3: Anchoring the Wire
In this next step, you will need to anchor your wire to the twine so that it doesn't slip while you're working with it. Throughout the rest of this Instructable, you will be working with the wire on the spool. You will not cut the wire until you reach the end of your garland wreath.
Fig. 4: Run the end of the wire up through the knot and then twist the end of the wire around the base of the loop as shown in Fig. 5.
Note: If you prefer to hang your garland instead of making a wreath out of it, you can twine the wire around the loop to strengthen it for hanging.
Step 4: Making and Anchoring Bundles to Your Twine
In this step, you will make bundles of greenery and attach them to the twine by wrapping wire around the ends of your bundles and the twine. Each bundle overlaps the next by half, and you continue wrapping wire and adding bundles until you reach the end of the twine.
Fig. 6: Make a bundle of greenery. This is where your personal tastes come into play. Use garden sheers or pruners to clip your greenery to the desired length. I prefer to make small bundles as shown. If you are working with holly, or do not want sap on your hands, this would be a good time to put on garden gloves.
Fig. 7: Lay your bundle over the twine with the stem ends pointing away from the loop. You will cover the loop with about half of your bundle. Hold the bundle and twine together in one hand. Hold the spool of wire in the other hand. Tightly wrap the wire around the twine and bundle two - three times. It does not matter which direction you wrap in so long as you stay consistent throughout the whole garland. After you've secured your first bundle, set it down and make a new bundle Fig. 8.
The next bundle should be placed halfway on top of the first bundle to cover the wire wrapping and the stems. Continue wire wrapping and layering bundles on the twine until you get to the end Figs. 9-10. Be sure to cover the loop with a bundle.
Step 5: Finishing Off!
When you've reached the end of your twine, trim the ends of the last bundle so they are even Fig. 12.
Fig. 13: Wrap the wire around the base of the loop a couple times to secure it. Then wrap the wire around the twine and a couple of the stems to secure it to the garland. You've finished making a garland. Cut that wire! (No, don't use your garden shears!) To make your garland into a wreath, simply tie the two loops together with a good old fashioned square knot.
After you've finished your wreath, add the candles and some ribbon if you like. Over the next four weeks, your wreath may dry out, but if you've used evergreens, they should not turn brown. You can mist the wreath every day or so with water to keep it from drying out too fast. Don't leave your Advent candles burning while unattended... dry wood...fire... it's hazardous and all that.
When Advent is over you can toss the whole thing into the compost pile or fireplace.
This type of wreath can be hung on the door, however, it may sag a bit.
Advent resources: http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholida...
I hope my Instructable is helpful! I would sure like to see your advent wreaths. Thanks for reading!