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“What’s on Fire?!” An Advent Tale or Two

purple candleDutifully, Catholics go on the hunt each year for the highly coveted, purple and pink candle ensemble vital to any serious Advent wreath. I’m eighty-seven percent sure that I buy a replacement set after Christmas in anticipation of the following liturgical season. I proudly congratulate myself for thinking ahead, taking advantage of the sale price, and being prepared.

However, I have yet to rediscover those candles in time for the first weeks lighting. Wherever it is that I put them, thinking it the most obvious place of all has, to date, not yielded any candles. Hence I have to run out and buy more each year at the last minute when there is a drastic unavailability of said candles.

I am pretty sure when I pass on from this world and my kids are stuck clearing out my belongings they will unearth a vast supply of Advent candles and simply look at one another, shrug their shoulders and wonder why. It will be a mystery they ponder and talk about around the Christmas tree each year. “Silly, crazy mom, whatever was she was thinking of doing with all those candles?”

Each season, I get the creative bug and try to come up with new and ever imaginative ways to display our wreath. A couple of years ago I thought I would suspend it above our dining room table. This appeared to be all well and good, theoretically, in an aesthetically-pleasing sort of way. Why, it was even “pre-Pinterest” in its clever application. Hovering almost angelically above our meals, it was a sight to behold. Functionally, however, one had to always remember to go low when passing the peas or pouring milk.

I remember finishing up the dishes one evening when our youngest quizzically mentioned something about a fire. I gazed out into the vast expanse of desert that is arrayed behind our home and scanned the horizon. I didn’t see a fire. The fire isn’t “out there” someone screamed…the Advent wreath was ablaze!

After the max exodus post dinner, the unattended wreath had caught fire as the candles reached the conclusion of their lives and made contact with oil-rich plastic products. Quickly reacting we attempted to disengage the wreath from its mooring and gave it “the ‘ol heave ho” into the yard. There we watched it slowly burn out in a blaze of glory. Its demise was not in vain and has gone down in history, recanted each Advent with hilarity.

Other Advent recollections involve tiffs which ensued between the “lighters” and the “blowers.” The timeless question of who gets to light, and who gets to extinguish was always a hotly debated topic for the younger kids. Once they hit the teenage years they no longer placed that kind of priority on the “subjects worth fighting about” list.

It was with great wisdom that the suggested prayers accompanying the lighting usually stipulated who got to light and when. I wonder if there was a long-lost addendum that went into detail on the act of extinguishing that somehow vanished over the centuries. “On the evening upon the lighting of the rose candle, the youngest female exerts her wee precious breath snuffing outeth the light.”

Perhaps that issue wasn’t a big deal in your homes, I can assure you our kids made it one in ours. Honestly there were a few times we had to relight the whole thing to right the infraction and let the proper kid have their turn blowing out. Oh, the things we parents do to make peace.

I’d love to hear about the advent wreath adventures in your home if you will take the time to share. I cannot be the only one who has stories.

May your homes this season be filled with love, laughter and the light of Christmas.


Barbara Lishko works full time as a Lay Catholic Marriage Minister. She and her husband Mark, an ordained Deacon, have been married for 35 years and are blessed with five young adult children, whose lives grow and expand through marriage and grandchildren.


Through the inspiration of her family, work in the Catholic Church and wacky life experiences her dream of writing was born. She is the recipient of the Diocese of Phoenix St Terese of Lisieux award. Barbara can be reached at blishko_58@yahoo.com


  • Terri Kimmel

    I laughed so hard it brought tears to my eyes reading this. Oh, what we Catholics will do for God and family! :0) We had plenty of “blowing out” and “lighting” squabbles in my family when I was a child. Now, as an adult and mother, I finally had to resort to making and hanging a felt Advent wreath on the wall. With a house full of boys there was no other satisfactory way to mitigate the fire risk. I think pyromania is part of male DNA. Even now, the boys can’t resist coarsely “rearranging” the yellow felt flames that are supposed to be added to tip of each candle as the Advent weeks progress. My oldest son, the college student, will be home in a few days, and I have no doubt in my mind that a fresh session of flame rearrangement will commence as soon as he enters the house.

    What a wonderful article. <3