I have been asked to explain the significance of the coloured candles in the Advent wreath. Most people have three purple candles and one pink or rose-coloured one. Some people also have a white candle in the centre of the wreath, this is lit on Christmas Day as a symbol of Christ as Light of the World.
The first purple candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent. It represents hope. We light another purple candle on the second Sunday, this represents love. Then on the third Sunday we light the pink candle to represent joy. When I was young and we still used Latin for all our church services, the third Sunday of Advent was known as Gaudete Sunday, gaudete being Latin for rejoice. This was the day, near the midpoint of Advent, when the penitential aspect of Advent was relaxed, the purple vestments were put aside for the day and the priest wore rose-coloured ones instead. All of the prayers and readings of the day are about rejoicing. Here is a choir, dressed appropriately in rose-coloured gowns, singing Gaudete, gaudete:
On the fourth Sunday of Advent we light another purple candle, a reminder that we need to make a last effort to prepare for Christmas; this candle represents peace. It is usually at this point that I realise that Advent is fast disappearing and I have been distracted from my intention of spending some time in quiet reflection each day. That is one good reason to have an Advent wreath or calendar in the house as well as in church, if you are like me you will need lots of reminders that this is a time to think about hope, love, joy and peace as well as the presents and parties.
Thanks to Val for this link to the BBC's Advent calendar, with music, poetry and readings for every day of Advent.