Joe's family used an Advent wreath when he was small, and he wanted to continue that tradition with our family. He grew up Catholic, and I didn't, but I was happy to continue to observe the tradition.
Each night, at dinner, we say a prayer (just a quick, bless our meal kind of prayer), and we let Grace light the candle or candles. We turn the dining room lights down and eat (mostly) by candle light.
At the end of the meal, we do our Jesse tree devotion, prayer, songs, and story, and then we blow the candle out.
That's the whole of the tradition for us.
The Advent Wreath is so simple that you can do as much with it (or as little) as suits you. If you want to skip the Jesse tree but do the Advent wreath, do that. If you want to do the Jesse tree devotionals with the Advent wreath and skip the tree and its ornaments, do that.
How to Make an Advent Wreath for Kids
Our Advent Wreath is very simple.
We purchased an Advent Wreath ring at the craft store. It's nothing more than a green wire ring with 4 candle stick holders attached to it. We wrapped an inexpensive evergreen garland around the ring and eventually put a few red and silver decorations in it.
At the beginning of the season, we put four taper candles (three purple and one pink, although we waited too long this year to get them and had to settle for 4 lavender ones instead) in the ring and one large, white pillar candle in the center.
Your Advent wreath can be as simple or as fancy as you want. It can be a wreath or a garland piled around 5 pillar candles. It could be a styrofoam wreath with 4 taper candles stuck into it and some ribbon wrapped around it to make it pretty.
Or you could buy an actual Advent Wreath. They're not available at Walmart or Target (at least, not in the ones I've visited), but they are widely available in Christian book stores and online.
No matter how you make your Advent wreath, the key is to use it with your children.
What do the candles mean?
Candle one - Hope and patience
Candle two - Love
Candle three - Joy (this is the one that's usually pink, but it's okay for it to be purple, too.)
Candle four - Peace
Candle five - the Savior (this is the white pillar in the center of the wreath)
When do you light the candles?
At many churches, they light the first candle on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It is put out after the service. On the following Sunday, they light the first and second candle. On the third Sunday, they light the first, second, and third candles. On the last Sunday of Advent (the Sunday just before Christmas), they light all four candles.
On Christmas Eve, they light all four candles plus the white pillar.
I don't live in a church, so we do it a little differently.
We light the first candle just before dinner on the first day of Advent, and we blow it out after dinner. We light this same candle before dinner every night during the first week. During the second week, we light both the first and second candles. During the third week, we light the first three candles. During the fourth week, we light all four candles.
On Christmas Eve morning, we light the white pillar candle, and we leave it burning all day (as long as safety permits). We light the four colored candles at dinner, just like we have been.
But we're not Catholic
Neither are we. We just like the tradition. If it sounds like something your family would like, give it a try.