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How candles, cookies and closeness can add up to Christmas

Symbolism of the Advent Wreath
The wreath, a circle, expresses God’s unending eternity. Evergreens symbolize God’s changelessness and our immortal soul. Three candles are purple, symbolizing that Advent is a season of waiting, expectation and preparation. The pink candle represents joy and hope in awaiting Jesus’ birth. The light radiating from the four candles represents Christ, the Light of the World.

Gingerbread Cookies
5–5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cloves
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups mild molasses
2 eggs, beaten

    Preheat oven to 375º. Thoroughly mix flour, soda, salt and spices. Melt shortening in large saucepan; cool slightly. Add sugar, molasses and eggs; mix well. Add 4 cups of the dry ingredients and mix well. Turn mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in remaining dry ingredients by hand, adding flour if needed to make a firm dough.
    Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookies using a 3- or 3 1/2-inch holly leaf-shaped cookie cutter. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet or a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake small to medium cookies for 6–10 minutes, larger cookies for 10–15 minutes. One recipe of gingerbread dough will yield 40 average-size cookies or enough dough to make two Advent wreaths, one to keep and one to give away.

Royal Icing
3 level T meringue powder
4 cups (1 lb.) sifted confectioner’s sugar
6 T water

Beat all ingredients at low speed for 7–10 minutes (10–12 minutes at high speed with portable mixer) until icing forms peaks. Tint icing with green food coloring or coloring purchased from cake and candy supply store. Pipe icing on cookies using a #3 decorating tip and a decorating bag.

Assembling the wreath
Holly-shaped gingerbread cookies
Dried cherries or red candy
4-candle candleholder ring

Using a 12-inch dinner plate as a template, cut a circle out of cardboard. Use an 8-inch plate to make the hole in the middle. Space cookies about 1/4 inch apart around the cardboard using a dab of icing to hold them in place. Dab icing on each side of leaves to hold second layer of cookies in place. Use a dab of icing to secure a dried cherry or piece of candy to each leaf. Place candleholder in center of completed wreath.

Blessing the Advent Wreath
This can take place on the Saturday evening before the first Sunday of Advent when the family gathers for the main meal.
“Father, today we begin our time of preparation for the birthday of your Son. We ask you to bless this wreath and help us who use this wreath to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ the Lord. Amen.”

The First Week of Advent
The head of the household says the following prayer and the youngest child then lights the candle opposite the rose candle; it remains lit during the meal. The same candle is burned each day of the first week.
“May this light remind us of Jesus who is the true light of the world. Let us call upon Him whose coming we await, for He is: God from God, light from light, true God from true God. Amen.”
Suggested reading: Luke 21:25–28, 34–36.

The Second Week of Advent
The head of the household says the following prayer and the eldest child then lights the first candle and a candle next to it; they remain lit during the meal. The same candles are burned each day of the second week.
“Father, help us to prepare the way of Jesus, the Light of the World. May we who believe He will come again always serve you. Let us proclaim this mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Amen.”
Suggested reading: Luke 3:1–6.

The Third Week of Advent
The head of the household says the following prayer and the mother (or grandmother) lights the previous candles and the rose candle; they remain lit during the meal. The same candles are burned each day of the third week.
“Lord, we ask you to penetrate the darkness of our minds so that, filled with your brightness, we may rejoice in your coming as we say: Blessed be God forever. Amen.”
Suggested reading: Luke 3:10–18.

The Fourth Week of Advent
The head of the household says the following prayer and then lights all four candles; they remain lit during the meal.
“Lord, hurry and come to us. May your light shine in our lives, so that we may be freed from sin. Protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for your coming as Our Savior: For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours now and forever. Amen.”
Suggested reading: Luke 1:39–45.

By Evelyn Barella

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