Why is the third Sunday of Advent pink? (Why is the third candle in the Advent wreath pink?)

Why is the third Sunday of Advent pink?I inevitably got this question from my students during the 3rd week of Advent. So what is the best way to answer it?

You could Google it and find a number of reasons:

  • Purple is a penitential color of fasting while pink (rose) is the color of joy.
  • The 3rd Sunday in Advent is Gaudete Sunday (from the Latin meaning “rejoice”) which is taken from Philippians 4:4-5, the Entrance Antiphon of the day.
  • Long ago the Pope would honor a citizen with a pink rose (or a rose rose?) Priests then would wear pink vestments as a reminder of this coming joy.
  • Rose is also used during Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of lent) to symbolize a similar expectation of the coming joy of Christ’s coming in Easter.

But often, the Google’s answer doesn’t stick. How you answer questions like this one is more important than the answer itself. This way, when your students are asked this question as parents many years later, they will have an answer ready to share. Here is my approach:

1. Tap into their prior knowledge by asking:

  • What is the purpose of the season of Advent? (preparing for Jesus’ coming/Christmas)
  • What other season uses purple? (Lent)
  • What is the purpose of Lent? (giving things up, preparing for Easter)
  • What do Advent and Lent have in common? (they are both seasons of preparation)
  • So what do you think purple stands for? (preparation – make sure they make a connection between preparation and penitence)

2. Give them the simple, compact, and memorable answer:
The third Sunday of Advent is rose (pink) because pink symbolizes joy, the joy that Jesus is almost here. When parents get ready to bring a new baby home, they typically paint the baby’s room pink or blue. They do this out of joy for to baby’s arrival. In the same way, the priest wears pink and we light a pink candle to represent the joy we feel to welcome Jesus in Christmas.

If you don’t like the analogy I used, then pick another one. The point is, if you connect this new information with a story they already know, then you can get the message to stick. This way, you won’t get the same question next year!

Also, make sure you review this lesson during Lent when the priests break out the rose vestments again.

For further reading:

http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Dec2004/Wiseman.asp
http://catholicism.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_advent_wreath

Any other ideas instead of the baby-room analogy?

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Comments

  1. Meghann Robinson says:

    In your students' question, where is the emphasis? Is it "Why PINK on the third Sunday?" or "Why pink on the THIRD Sunday?"

    I make this distinction because I remember growing up and understanding that there was a different color to show that heightened anticipation, but I often wondered why it was the second-to-last Sunday when we talked about Jesus' coming being particularly close. After all, aren't we even closer a week later? Why not purple-purple-purple-pink? The best way I could work it out in my brain was that, when the season felt like it was getting long, and we knew there was more to come, we gave ourselves a reminder of the upcoming joy.

    On a note related to your baby-room analogy, a friend of mine posted a link on her blog to a beautiful homily connecting Advent and pregnancy: http://pohlmeierfamily.blogspot.com/