The most immediate challenge of an extended Advent is how to count the weeks. The average Advent wreath can accommodate four candles. Also, the average Advent wreath was donated in memory of someone, and switching to something completely different might be tricky. Here are a few Advent candle options, with or without the existing wreath.
Option 1: Keep the wreath and give it company.
Adding three extra candles somewhere near your existing wreath might be your least disruptive option. At one of her congregations, Barn Goose Linnéa set a little credence table in front of the wreath and covered it in dark blue fabric and dark blue glitter tulle (one of her favorite things!). She placed three pillar candles of varying heights on the table and started lighting them from shorter to taller. Week 4, the “real” beginning of Advent, was the first Sunday she lit a candle on the actual Advent wreath. The light traveled upward toward the wreath as the weeks progressed, and the existing wreath still worked like it usually did.
Option 2: Stick extra candles on your wreath.
This is what Barn Goose Victoria’s church did during its foray into a seven-week Advent. They had a circular wreath with a clear acrylic bottom, which allowed them to add three candle-holders that had been spray-painted to match the brass of the stand. Poster putty lent some stability to these three central candles (though not enough, in Victoria’s opinion, as she relives the terror of watching acolytes light them). Evergreens hid the fact that the design of the candleholders didn’t match the rest of the wreath. If Victoria had it to do over again, she’d recommend that the worship and music committee consider a different option; instability of the candles aside, as December advanced, it became hard to distinguish individual candles from one another, and the visual impact of counting candles was lost. Your mileage may vary.
Option 3: Make the wreath set-up part of your Advent counting.
Instead of adding extra candles, use the extra two or three weeks at the beginning of extended Advent to build your wreath. Begin assembling elements of the wreath itself ahead of time: the stand, the ring, and the candles themselves can all be part of an extended Advent observation. Note: the Advent candle-lighting prayer we wrote for you uses lighted candles as a primary image, so it won’t work with this method—but you may find the trade-off of a gentler visual introduction worthwhile.
Option 4: Ditch the wreath and use something else.
Many candelabras built for churches have seven candle holders. If you have one hanging out in your sanctuary or storage closet, use it in place of an Advent wreath, apply some evergreen garland, and light a candle each week. If you don’t have such a candelabra, simply assemble six or seven pillar candles in a significant area, set the scene with some dark blue fabric, and light them one by one as the weeks go by.
Option 5: Commission a new wreath.
Some congregations make a fresh wreath each year, so it would be easy to make one that can accommodate seven candles. If you have an artist or carpenter in your congregation, perhaps you can commission a seven-candle wreath.
However you choose to adapt your Advent wreath, we have two pieces of advice that apply to all options:
- Watch out for fire hazards.
- Make sure that bad boy won’t TIP OVER.