Tuesday 3 December 2019

Advent Candles Explained

Congratulations to Skaldwell, whose arrangement won this year's Advent Candle prize.

It's certainly generated a lot of strong reactions. But I don't think that anyone can doubt that "The Pointlessness of Hope in a Decaying World" is a powerful statement.

A scattered arrangement of burnt-down and crushed tea lights
The Pointlessness of Hope in a Decaying World

The astonishing Fegus Butler-Gallie, a cleric whom all should follow on Twitter, has come up with a wonderful thread of tweets on the subject of Advent Candles.  But left people asking - what actually is the significance given to each of the candles?

Well, obviously in an ordinary Advent ring, there's the big white one in the middle that actually represents Christmas itself. But the other four have very specific meanings.

Sometimes there will be four red candles (this one is under construction).

In this case, as in all Advent rings, the clues are in the iconography of the colours. The red represents Liverpool, and the four candles represent the "4 lads of Liverpool" from the old hymn: John in a taxi, George in a car. Paul on his scooter, beeping his hooter, following Ringo Star.

Sometimes however the candles will be 3 purple and one pink. Please don't go thinking the pink one is for Mary, and should be lit on the fourth Sunday in Advent because that's her Sunday. No, the candles stand for each of the four Sundays in Advent and represent, as follows:

1. The Sunday when everybody wonders why we're not singing Christmas carols yet. But maybe that's because it's in the Octave of Black Friday and you need a nice purple candle to stand for not as black as Friday, but still a long way to the white one. But surely "Away in a Manger" wouldn't be out of place? And the vicar does the 4 Candles joke from the Two Ronnies but nobody under 50 understands it but that doesn't matter because apart from little Scirocco, who's there with her gran, there's nobody under 50 in the church. But then someone points out there's five candles anyway. And that falls as flat as a counter-tenor on a day of above-average humidity.

2. The Sunday when everyone thinks "does she know it's Christmas", as the vicar's picked a load of stuff about John the Baptist for no apparent reason and isn't that next week? Or maybe last week? Does anyone know why the readings don't match the Collect, only the latter's all about the Bible and what's that got to do with Christmas anyway? And the quire's asking why are there no bars in the music for O Come O Come Immanuel? And the organist doesn't care because he plays it in a minor key in 11/8 time because that was a thing he saw on Youtube.

3. The Sunday when it's the Nativity and in the evening it's the Church Carol Service and why are we still going on about John the Baptist? Surely he should be in the New Year some time when it's all about repentance and Jesus going out into the wilderness? Traditionally the Sunday when the vicar lights the pink candle and everybody says you can't because pink stands for Mary because she's a girl and that's next week. Or possibly last week. Or is it Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Or is that the names of the Bootleg Beatles? And is it this week or last week for the jumpers where Santa's nose glows? Only St Luke wasn't clear.

4. The Sunday when even the vicar's given up and picked some Christmas carols and there's not many people at Church because it's not long till Christmas Day so you've got to go and do some physical shopping. And the vicar lights the fourth candle and everybody says can you light the white one, only we'll be away over Christmas so we never see that one lit till it's all burned down in January and we're saying can we get rid of the crib and someone's saying YOU CAN'T BECAUSE IT'S GOT TO STAY TILL FEBRUARY BECAUSE CANDLEMASS. And everyone's going the tree will never last that long. It's already gone brown and the needles have fallen off because the Brownies insisted we had to hold the Christmas Tree Festival in November, at the same time as the Scarecrow Festival, because that's when people like to come to church - when they're feeling all Christmassy. And then the bare, dried out tree gets too near the five candles dancing in a ring and everyone legs it out and calls the fire brigade.

And that's what the four candles of the Advent Ring are all about.

Want to support this blog? Want a good laugh? (or to shudder at death at any rate? Then here's two ways you can keep the Archdruid in doilies...
If you want someone to share the terrors of death while making you laugh, we have "A Hint of Death in the Morning Air" - 97 poems to make you wonder, laugh or shake your head sadly. At only £1 on Kindle. Or if you want to know what the people in the pews really think, and you prefer your words printed on paper, why not try "Writes of the Church"?  The letters to the Church magazine the vicar really didn't need.

1 comment :

  1. I did wonder, since our Vicar has a specific list and prayer for each one when it is lit. So, your alternative explanations might just go into our parish newsletter for the un - initiated so they can get into the spirit of a secular Christmas. I like the referral to Liverpool Football Club as well, Many scousers (unless they are Everton supporters) will accept that as the Gospel Truth.


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