Waxing lyrical for Green Friday: Advent Wreath prepared for 40 days of candle light
Today (25 November), flower arrangers at York Minster have built what is believed to be the UK’s largest suspended Advent Wreath, as the cathedral prepares for the first candle to be lit on Sunday 27 November – the earliest possible date for the start of Advent.
The Advent Wreath is four metres across, meaning that the team of York Minster flower arrangers have over 12 metres of decoration to complete on the circular decoration, which holds dozens of blocks of oasis contained within the large channelled metal ring and requires several gallons of water to keep the foliage looking fresh.
The five candles which are lit – one each Sunday during Advent and the final one on Christmas Day – will be added to the wreath by children from the Minster School’s pre-prep department. Each one metre high candle can burn for up to three weeks, and the wreath remains lit until Epiphany (6 January), so the Minster vergers expect to use up 11 or 12 candles this year to keep the wreath lit through Advent.
“The Advent wreath is a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages, with evergreen foliage symbolising continuous life and the circle of the wreath itself representing the eternity of God, immortality of the soul and the everlasting life found through Christ. The four candles around the ring represent the fore-runners of Jesus: the Patriarchs, the Prophets, John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the centre of the wreath, the fifth candle represents the light of Christ coming into the world, and it will be lit during the 10.00am Eucharist service on Christmas Day,” explains Reverend Canon Dr Christopher Collingwood, Chancellor of York Minster.
It is thought that the York Minster Advent Wreath is the largest suspended in any church of cathedral in the UK – and possibly the world – with dishes the size of a wok used to capture any wax dripping off the candles. When complete, it is suspended beneath the central tower on a mechanical winch, which enables it to be lowered each Sunday for the lighting of the next candle, and also to give easier access to the flower arrangers who regularly refresh the foliage. A light shining on the wreath casts a distinctive shadow onto the Kings’ Screen – a familiar sight to worshippers and regular visitors.
The raising of the Advent Wreath marks the start of York Minster’s busiest season of concerts, performances and events which run alongside the packed programme of services in the run up to Christmas. Highlights include the Advent Procession on the evening of 27 November (starting at 5.15pm, with doors open at 4.15pm), Sankta Lucia carol service on 9 December, York Minster’s sell-out Christmas Carol Concerts on 15 and 16 December, and concerts including Handel’s Messiah performed by the York Minster Choir on 10 December. There are also workshops and craft activities throughout December, including a Christmas embroidery workshop on 3 December and rag wreath workshop on 10 December.
For more information about what’s on at York Minster, please visit www.yorkminster.org
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