QUAERITUR: Advent wreaths, lumps of coal, and you

From a reader:

Do you have any suggestions for where I can buy a good Advent wreath online?

Why, yes! I do! Since the Mystic Monks don’t have Advent Wreathes, I suggest that you use my links to Amazon. They have some nice wreathes, as it turns out.

Consider also this: In a time when we should all be concerned about helping fallen away Catholics come back to their faith, perhaps giving an Advent Wreath to someone as a gift at the beginning of Advent, with a good explanation, could help them reconnect a bit.  A small gesture, but perhaps effective.  And don’t forget to introduce at some point the aspect of returning to confession before Christmas.

First, it can be tough sometimes to find candles.  I don’t like the scented candles.  Here is a pack of four (three purple and one rose).  Click HERE.

Since I usually make my own, something like this might be useful for others who want to shape their own.  Click the images.

Something ready to go.  There is a base with candles included HERE.

Something with pine cones.  I am not sure, but I think some people understand pine cones to be obligatory.

Here is a “celtic” lookin’ base.  Perhaps you could make the Church in the poor Ireland the object of your prayer during Advent.

This one has glass things for the candles. in case you are worried about setting the cat on fire.  I never worry about setting cats on fire, but some people find that disconcerting… indoors, at least.

There are a zillion more.  In any event, once you click one of those links and start exploring, I believe WDTPRS will get a small percentage of the sale.  Therefore, I hope that about 5000 of you will buy Advent Wreathes today after using one of my links.

Think of the fun you can have drinking Mystic Monk Coffee or Tea, even the flavored stuff, from a WDTPRS mug, while assembling and talking about your Advent Wreath with your kids!

And don’t forget that this Sunday is Stir-Up Sunday!

There are wonderful customs for Advent and we should plan for them.  Do you have a good supply of coal and twigs for St. Nicholas Day?   Amazon also has – I am not making this up – lumps of coal.

If you don’t have stockings – guess where you can get some – you can get your lumps of coal in a – I am not making this up – gift bag.

You’ve got to love the entrepreneurial spirit.

Here is a 10-pack (!) of anthracite coal lumps.  Snark and economy at the same time!

For twigs you are on your own, though I am sure Amazon could help with that too.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Brick by Brick, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. JohnE says:

    I bought mine from Aquinas & More.

  2. ContraMundum says:

    I buy such things mostly from Leaflet Missal. [Good people and friends, to be sure. However, try the amazon.com link this time! o{]:¬) ]

    As someone currently living in West Virginia, I have to take exception at the FAKE lump of coal! For someone on the “nice” list, will there likewise be a wax apple or plastic orange? [The first lump of coal really is a piece of bituminous coal. Given your handle and what I have perceived over time to be your style in some comments, however, I have added to the top entry a 10-pack of anthracite!]

  3. ContraMundum says:

    Oh — and maybe a lovely wreath in which the “candles” are really electric lights! :-)

  4. APX says:

    In a time when we should all be concerned about helping fallen away Catholics come back to their faith, perhaps giving an Advent Wreath to someone as a gift at the beginning of Advent, with a good explanation, could help them reconnect a bit.

    Better yet, if your parish does its own arts and crafts Advent wreath-building thing on a Saturday or something, and you know a fallen away Catholic who’s a sucker for arts and crafts (or even just bored), invite them along. Maybe the priest will be around for an intervention.

  5. Mary Jane says:

    Coal on Amazon…love that. Too funny!

  6. I like the smell of coal. Not so much the burning kind, but the lump kind.

    Of course, the smell of books is the smell of slow burning and acid, so I guess that the smell of petrochemicals before they petro- isn’t all that different from the smell of them after. (I guess that makes gasoline like too-strong versions of perfume.)

  7. ContraMundum says:

    Sorry about my style …. There’s something definitely wrong about the internet. I’m not quite as big a jerk in real life as I seem to be on the internet, though I am no doubt a bigger jerk at all times than I realize. I have to try to keep that in mind about other people, too, though experience has taught me that there are certain blogs by thoroughly orthodox Catholic lay apologists I should completely avoid as a near occasion of the sin of wrath because of their styles. I wish that were a joke; it is not. I have reason to think I am not the only one who reacts in this way, which makes me question the usefulness of such a “style” for apologetics; but at any rate, the best thing for me to do is simply avoid them and stick with that backlog of solid Catholic reading that just seems to keep on growing.

    As for my handle, it is due to the fact that my Confirmation name was Athanasius. I am an adult convert, and I knew I was not signing up for an easy time.

  8. picayunelayman says:

    Father, could you please make a recommendation re:

    http:/monasterycandleshop.com? [No. I can’t. I don’t know them.]

  9. APX says:


    Personally, the only type of coal I like are the kind that were in the ground forced under pressure for millions of years. Bonus if it comes with a platinum band.

  10. Ok, what IS Stir-Up Sunday? I have never heard of it until reading this post this morning.


  11. JoAnna says:

    I buy plain white votive candles, put them in inexpensive votive holders, and tie purple and rose ribbon around them. Easier than trying to find the correct color of candles, plus you can buy a big box of white votives and spools of ribbon that will last for several Advent seasons. I went to Ross (discount department store) and found a 5-votive candle holder for around $10. Here’s a picture of what my “wreath” looked like last year.

  12. Sean: What is Stir-Up Sunday?

    Stir-Up Sunday is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, in other words, the Sunday before the 1st Sunday of Advent, on which a collect for Mass involving (in translation in the English Book of Common Prayer in England) the words “Stir up1 … Excita!” This is the Sunday people make their Christmas Puddings so that they have adequate time to season before Christmas. Look HERE.

  13. Cathy says:

    Father Z, I get the feeling that you are not terribly fond of cats. They make great companions for bird watching!

  14. canis caeli says:

    The Advent Wreath originated amongst the pagans of northern Europe. It was adopted by Lutherans as a “Christian” tradition. Sixty years ago, Cdl Spellman banned them from sanctuaries within the Archdiocese.

    The wreath IMHO is another novelty. It was adopted by German Catholics. [So what?]

  15. Thank you Fr. Z!

    I have told the Mrs. that I want Lobscouse and Spotted Dog for Christmas.

    [Try the recipe for Sea Pie!]

  16. Mary Jane says:

    Here is what appears to be a fairly good history of the Advent Wreath: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0132.html

  17. Cathy: I think cats and Advent Wreathes are often a bad combination.

  18. Will D. says:

    I’m not convinced they should be in the sanctuary and used at Mass, but I think Advent wreaths are great devotional items for the home church. The one I use is similar to the Celtic one that Fr Z showed above; I think I will take his advice and add a prayer for my ancestral church in Ireland when I light the candles.
    As for where to buy them: support your local Catholic store.

  19. pm125 says:

    Advent wreathes are beautiful, and cats will notice, inspect, and maybe dismantle this temporary addition especially if the greens and cones are from outdoors – but not when there is flame !?! Maybe it would be best to use artificial material, and also find some ribbon tangle for temporary Christmas kitty diversion. I’d worry more about those lightweight, easily moved tree decs and unshod feet.

  20. Margaret says:

    Using an Advent wreath on our dinner table, and including the additional prayers along with grace before meals, has been a wonderful help to my family. The fight against a materialistic, gimme-gimme-gimme mindset in children and young adults is always difficult in our society, and ten times more so during the time leading up to Christmas. I’m thankful that we have something very tangible and visible available to aid us in helping our children (and ourselves) focus on the Reason for the Season.

  21. albinus1 says:

    The Advent Wreath originated amongst the pagans of northern Europe. It was adopted by Lutherans as a “Christian” tradition. Sixty years ago, Cdl Spellman banned them from sanctuaries within the Archdiocese.

    So what? Celebrating the birthday of a god on December 25 originated among the pagans of Persia (for Mithras) and the Mediterranean (for Sol Invictus). That date was chosen as the birthday of Jesus for precisely that reason.

    I assume Cardinal Spellman wore his bishop’s mitre in the Sanctuary. That has pagan origins as well. Christianity is full of pagan objects, feast days, and practices that were adopted and “Christianized”.

  22. buffaloknit says:

    This is a quick and helpful comment to say that the link after the sentence “Something ready to go. There is a base with candles included HERE” does not seem to work the way the other links do. I clicked the other links, and they opened product description pages in new windows. However, the link after the sentence I just quoted seems to take me to the amazon affiliates program page rather than an item for sale.

    Has anyone else noticed this?

    Thank you for posting this list of items! I know folks who have searched for and found quite decent looking advent wreaths on line, only to discover (after reading the amazon marketplace seller’s website, carefully!) that the vendor is some variety of anti-Catholic Christian/evangelical/etc. This is not the sort of entity my Catholic friends want to do business with.

    Fr. Z’s advent wreath list is a time saving device! Thank you!

  23. mwa says:

    For smaller fry, Emmanuel Books also has a new Advent wreath placemat with brief prayers and candles whose flames can be colored in
    I’ve found my children pick up a surprising amount of information from educational placemats

  24. AnnAsher says:

    Will someone tell me what the real deal is with coal? I suppose I could google … But then I’ll likely wonder which results to believe.
    Thanks MWA for the placemat link

  25. wolskerj says:

    We’ve had good luck buying our Advent and Christmas candles at http://www.buyacandle.com. You can customize your order according to size, shape, length, width, burning time, color, and smell (if any). They ship quickly and their prices are very reasonable. No affiliate program, unfortunately.

  26. Norah says:

    What’s with the coal and twigs for St Nicholas Day? I give children of my acquaintence bags of gold chocolate coins for his Feast Day but that is the only custom I know of.

  27. mwa says:

    “In Roman Catholic areas of southern Germany, such as Bavaria, Sankt Nikolaus still comes as a bishop with flowing beard and a bishop’s miter and staff. Houses are thoroughly cleaned and children clean and polish their shoes or boots in preparation for the saint’s visit. On the evening before St. Nicholas Day, children put letters to the good saint along with carrots or other food for his white horse or donkey on a plate or in their shoes. These are left outside, under the bed, beside a radiator, or on a windowsill in hopes of finding goodies from St. Nicholas the next morning. During the night Sankt Nikolaus goes from house to house carrying a book in which all the children’s deeds are written. If they have been good, he fills their plate, shoe or boot with delicious fruits, nuts and candies. If not, they may find potatoes, coal, or twigs.”
    **the above is a fabulous resource for celebrating St. Nicholas Day. I used their miter pattern for a St. Nicholas costume for our homeschool group’s chaplain a couple of years ago.**

  28. poetgrl says:

    I have bought those very same lumps of (plastic) coal for a pair of cousins one Christmas.

    They had been especially onery and I really had enough of it. So, knowing our Grandmother was only letting each of them open one gift that night, I wrapped coal in the biggest boxes I could find… complete with the shiniest paper and most elaborate bow I could make. They chose the gifts of coal to unwrap, thinking they were getting something expensive (on top of the long list of things they were demanding from Grandma, and I’m not being dramatic about it… they were in a demanding mood that year).

    Mean? …maybe. But both of them learned quickly that I never wrap the best things in the flashiest paper, nor do I put them in the biggest boxes. That, and the more they pester the adults about getting a certain item or items, the harder it is to open that gift when they do get it.
    (and yes, I wrap everyones gifts… don’t know why, but that’s how it works out each year)

  29. albinus1 says:

    My mother’s family is German, so they always observed the custom of leaving shoes out on the eve of St. Nicholas, a custom we continued when my sister and I were young.

    She told us that one year, when she was about ten, if that, my grandparents decided to have some fun with her. She woke up on the morning of St. Nicholas Day, ran to her shoes, and discovered that they were filled with sticks and coal! After she had a good cry, my grandparents laughed and brought out the presents that St. Nicholas “really” left for her.

    Lest anyone think that you can’t permanently traumatize your children: This happened over 60 years ago, and my mother still talks about it and still resents her parents for it.

  30. ContraMundum says:


    Don’t be so sure. For one thing, my understanding is that there is zero archaeological evidence that the feast of Sol Invictus was celebrated before Christians were celebrating Christmas on December 25. It may just as easily be that the Pagans wished to obscure Christmas as that Christians wanted to obscure Sol Invictus. After all, they built a temple to Athena on top of the Holy Sepulcher.

    Besides, there are in fact reasons to suspect late December. For one thing, the symbolism is correct, as is the symbolism for Christ being born at midnight — something which is not in the Gospel Nativity accounts, by the way. More significantly, the Annunciation is said to have taken place “in the sixth month”. If that was the 6th month of the Jewish calendar beginning with Rosh Hashanah, then Christ would have been born about 15 months after Rosh Hashanah, or alternately about 3 months after the next Rosh Hashanah. Due to the Jewish calendar being a lunar calendar, that date bounces around, but it does tend to be in late December. St. Bede (I have forgotten the precise reference) makes a somewhat similar statement based on a calculation from the end of Zachary’s service in the Temple.

  31. ContraMundum says:

    @canis caeli

    I would recommend On the Reliability of the Old Testament by K. A. Kitchen. It is really a book on archaeology, and one thing it does quite well is establish the context for the civil law and ceremonial law found in the Torah and the architecture of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. There were very strong precedents and parallels between the forms that God used with the Jewish people and the things that were being done in nearby Egyptian, Semitic, and Mesopotamian cultures. Basically, God in the Old Testament spoke to the Jews in a language they could understand: the Tabernacle and the later Temple looked like what they already understood a temple to be; but although He spoke in their language, what He had to say was distinctly different from what was being said by Baal and Moloch and Osiris.

    So if your problem with the Christmas tree is that pagans did it first, it’s just as true that Egyptian pagans did the Ark of the Covenant first. If your problem with the Advent wreath is that it originated among pagans, the design of the Tabernacle is just as much an imitation of the layout of pagan Semitic temples. But if the cultures of pagans could be purified and adapted to holy ends in the age of the Old Testament, then there is no reason to believe they could not be purified and adapted to holy ends in the age of the New Testament.

  32. ContraMundum says:

    Sorry — it was a temple to Aphrodite, not Athena, on the Holy Sepulcher.

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