Advent Candle: A Scandinavian tradition

by | Dec 1, 2016 | Christmas

It’s December 1st, and across Scandinavia millions will today gather around their advent candle as they celebrate the arrival of their favorite season: Yuletide.

The advent candle marks the countdown to Christmas from the 1st of December and until the 24th. Keep in mind that in Scandinavia, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve, the 24th of December.

The advent candle is also closely associated with togetherness. It’s a beloved tradition by most Scandinavian families. I fondly remember my time as a kid enjoying breakfast with my mom and brother with the advent candle flickering in the early morning before heading off to school. It was very ‘hyggeligt’ – as we say in Denmark –  and created a lot of warmth in a very cold and dark month.

Some families like to keep it simple and just have the advent calendar placed in a decorative candle holder, maybe with some pine or mistletoe lying next to it. But, the more traditional way is to place it in an extravagant decoration. This year I went with the latter.

Advent candle with nisser around

Let’s take a look at the steps for putting the advent candle decoration together.

01 Choose your candle

The Advent candle doesn’t sell everywhere in the US as in the Scandinavian countries, but you can easily find one online. Even on Amazon with prime shipping.

02 Gather your pine branches

I simply used the leftovers from what was cut off the bottom of my Christmas tree. But in past years, I’ve also bought a bunch at Whole Foods or similar store. These bunches are carefully selected and often offer a very beautiful range of pine branches.

03 Gather your other greeneries

Scandinavian families often make a day of it and go for a walk in the forest to find decoration material. As kids we would bring home our findings, and my mom would spray them in gold and silver. Now I live downtown, and getting to the forest takes a bit of a drive. Luckily, a walk with my dog yielded some pretty good finds right in my city-scaped ‘backyard’. I found a bush with gorgeous red leaves that were still securely stuck to the branch. And, right outside our apartment building was a tree that looked suspiciously like a Christmas Holly. Very convenient.

04 Ready your base

Find a vase or other item you want to use for your decoration. It can also be a basket, bowl, or just a plate. If you use something tall, like me, stick newspaper in the bottom to fill it out.

05 Line the vase

If you use a flat bowl or plate this may not be necessary. It’s simply a step to make it easy to clean out the clay after the season.

06 Place the candle

Add clay or similar product to the lining of your base. Using air dry clay is the easiest to handle when making a decoration. We also find it more stable as it hardens up and secures the candle solidly in the decoration. Now, place your candle. You don’t have to place it in the middle. The placement will all depend on what base you use, and what you think looks best. Note that, unfortunately, most candles only have half an inch at the bottom, so you are likely to lose a little bit of the candle, and may not want to burn it all the way to the 24th for fire hazard reasons.

07 Place the pine

Go through your pine and choose your cuts. The way I made my decoration is to have bit longer pine branches behind the candle and shorter in front. Make sure you stick them in so they lie down as flat as possible, away from the candle.

08 Place the greenery

Next cut your greenery to desired length and place that above the pine. Also lie this as flat as possible, away from the candle. I use a little bit of moss to cover the clay close to the candle. You may not be able to easily find moss if you live in the city, but you can buy it online. If the moss will not lie flat, you can use some needles or wire to pin it flat. I used a few needles and one of those green standard ornament hooks.

09 Spice it up

Now the fun part. Spice it up with cute little ornaments. I used two reindeer head ornaments from Medusa-Copenhagen as well as a simple golden sprayed pinecone. But, you may want to choose something you feel best suit the design of your candle. For example, if your candle has golden or silver numbers and design, golden or silver ornaments may work well or even a white bow. If it’s red and green, red bows, nisser/elves, or reindeers may be best suited. It’s all up to your imagination.

Note: Burning candles close to pine, especially as it dries, can cause a fire hazard. Don’t ever leave a burning candle alone.

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