The Advent Wreath may be of any size and is made of evergreens. There are four candles, one for each week of Advent; it is traditional that three of the candles are purple and one is rose.
The rose candle is lit on the Third Sunday of Advent since this colour symbolises and anticipates the joy of Christmas which is announced in the first word of the Entrance Antiphon: 'Rejoice' from the Latin 'Gaudete'. The third Sunday is also known as Gaudete Sunday and rose-coloured vestments may be worn.
The Advent Wreath originated in Europe, in what we now call Germany; there was a tradition there among the pagans to light candles on a wreath as the December darkness fell and the days became shorter and colder.
Eventually the Christians evangelised these people and converted them, but the people still held onto the tradition and so the Church 'Christianised' the practice.
Every year in Advent we wait once again in darkness for the Lord's coming; His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem; His final coming at the end of time, and in between, His special coming in each and every moment of grace.
The most important part of the wreath is the flame which symbolises Christ, the light of the world and our yearning for the light and warmth of his love which is everlasting, as is symbolised by the evergreen wreath which never loses its 'green-ness'.
It would be great to have a wreath at home and gather as a family each day and light the candle together (not forgetting to extinguish it!!) and pray for a few moments. This will help us to pray as a family which is the most important thing that you can do as a family.
It will also help you to prepare for Christmas in a real Christian way and focus on Christ rather than wrapping paper and long shopping queues. It will help us prepare spiritually for Christmas so that Christmas may be that Holy day it's supposed to be and God wants it to be for us.
Ultimately God wants each of us to be that candle reflecting His light to our world that so much needs to see Him.
The photo at the top of this post shows our new Advent Wreath already for its 'début' on Sunday. If I can obtain a better photo I'll come back and replace this one!
Update: I hope you approve of the 'improved' photo!