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Advent candles

Originally, I thought this would be a good day to write about the tradition of advent candles, as it is the first Sunday of advent. It turns out, however, that it is in fact the second Sunday of advent, for technical reasons to do with 4 x 7 being a slightly more than 24, and Christmas Eve being a Saturday this year. Still, a plan is a plan, and like many other great men, I see no reason to change my plan just because of silly little things like facts.

When I was a kid, we used to burn advent candles both at home and at school. At home, we had a circular candlestick with four purple candles, and we would burn the first one for a while on the first Sunday of advent, then the first and the second, on the second Sunday, etc., etc., thus giving the candles different length, which for me is still the image of what advent candles should look like. At school, we would do pretty much the same, except the candlestick was linear instead of circular, which I always thought looked a bit odd, and of course we didn't go to school on Sundays, so it would probably be on a Friday or a Monday.

Looking back, I find it a bit weird that this tradition had such a prominent place both at home and at school. From what I read on the Internets (i.e. wikipedia), it appears to be mostly a thing one does in church, with rather a lot of emphasis placed on symbolism and waiting for the second coming and a lot of stuff that we certainly never talked about at home. That we observed this tradition in school is perhaps not that surprising, as Norwegians schools were no strangers to a bit of hidden indoctrination. In fact, the indoctrination wasn't even hidden, as until 2008 it was part of the law that the schools should "help give the pupils a Christian and moral upbringing"1, though in practice it probably depended (and still depends, I imagine) a lot on your teacher.

However, even in school I don't think we focused that heavily on waiting for Jesus' return, and the one song/poem-thingy related to advent candles that I remember is the fairly secular "Advent" by Inger Hagerup:

Så tenner vi et lys i kveld, vi tenner det for glede
Det står og skinner for seg selv og oss som er tilstede
Så tenner vi et lys i kveld, vi tenner det for glede

Så tenner vi to lys i kveld, to lys for håp og glede
De står og skinner for seg selv og oss som er tilstede
Så tenner vi to lys i kveld, to lys for håp og glede

Så tenner vi tre lys i kveld, for lengsel, håp og glede
De står og skinner for seg selv og oss som er tilstede
Så tenner vi tre lys i kveld for lengsel, håp og glede

Vi tenner fire lys i kveld og lar dem brenne ned
For lengsel, glede, håp og fred, men mest allikevel for fred
på denne lille jord, hvor menneskene bor


English courtesy of google:

So we light a candle in the night, we light it for joy
It stands and shines for itself and us that are present
So we light a candle in the night, we light it for joy

So we light two candles in the evening, two candles of hope and joy
They stand and shine for themselves and us that are present
So we light two candles in the evening, two candles of hope and joy

So we light three candles in the night, longing, hope and joy
They stand and shine for themselves and us that are present
So we light three candles in the evening of longing, hope and joy

We light four candles in the evening and let them burn down
For longing, joy, hope and peace, but most anyway for peace
on this small earth, where people live


One person is perhaps not a statiscially significant sample, but at least my impression is that it is not uncommon in Norway to light N purple candles on the N'th Sunday of advent. Also, I think most people don't place a lot of religious significance on this tradition, but rather sees it as a part of the whole Christmas decorations package, and for the kids it is probably mostly about waiting for Christmas.

Interestingly, there is (again according to wikipedia) a thing called an advent candle, which is one candle that you burn a little every day during advent, so effectively an advent calendar.

-Tor Nordam

1«Grunnskolen skal i samarbeid og forståing med heimen hjelpe til med å gi elevane ei kristen og moralsk oppseding,..»

Comments

Camilla,  05.12.10 00:57

I like the tradition of the advent candles, but like you I never really thought of it as a religious thing. In my world it is just another way of counting down to the food and the presents -- with fire.

Do you have a photo of an Advent candle in action? Hmm?
Camilla,  07.12.10 14:56

But if you can conjure up for your inner eye a purple candle standing next to another purple candle standing next to another candle standing next to another purple candle, and the first being almost burnt down, the second slightly less burnt down, the third less than that again and the fourth hardly burnt at all, then that should give you a good idea of the thing.
Camilla,  07.12.10 15:08

It should be noted that the poem Tor posted is not the only variation. There is a much more religious one as well:

Nå tenner vi det første lys, alene må det stå.
Vi venter på det lille barn som i en krybbe lå.

Nå tenner vi det andre lys. Da kan vi bedre se.
Vi venter på at Gud, vår Far skal gi sin Sønn hit ned

Nå tenner vi det tredje lys. Det er et hellig tall.
Vi venter på at Kongen vår skal fødes i en stall.

Nå tenner vi det fjerde lys, og natten blir til dag.
Vi venter på en Frelsermann for alle folkeslag.


It translates roughly as

Now we light the first candle, it must stand alone.
We are waiting for the little child who lay in a manger.

Now we light the second candle. Then we can see better.
We are waiting for God, our Father, to send his Son down to us.

Now we light the third candle. It is a sacred number.
We are waiting for our King to be born in a stable.

Now we light the fourth candle, and the night turns to day.
We are waiting for a Saviour for all people.


Obviously it scans better in Norwegian.