Three Purples and a Pink

I don’t know why, but right before Advent begins each year, as I’m packing up the turkey teapot for storage, I suddenly realize I don’t have candles.Our traditional Advent wreath calls for taper candles, and I prefer the traditional colors: three purples and one pink. The white Christ Candle in the center is my wedding unity candle, so we reuse that year after year; but we always need replacement tapers.And I always forget until the last minute.And then I end up scouring the city for them.I went to Michael’s, a craft store that carries a nice selection of candles. All they had, though, were red, green and white Christmas candles and a few tapers in odd colors. No purple. No pink.Risking life and limb at Wal-mart on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I slipped in to search for purple and pink candles. They only had warm fall colors on sale and a new display of fake pine-scented green candles mingled with red and white.Bed, Bath & Beyond had a bunch of strong-smelling Yankee candles in jars, but no purple or pink tapers. At that point, I recalled Charity’s chunky pillar Advent candles and decided that I would remain open-minded. If I managed to find purple and pink pillars, they might work as well as—maybe even better than—the tapers.I tried Target—no tapers, no pillars.I even drove to two different grocery stores in search of purple and pink candles, but none could be found. I started to feel a little upset that I was letting the family down.So I set my sights on Hobby Lobby, a gigantic craft superstore. It’s a Christian store, too—surely they would have Advent candles. They might even have a pack of Advent candles on display front and center!Yes. Hobby Lobby would deliver! I just knew it!I raced in and stared at the warehouse-sized space, jostled by eager crafters whizzing past, their carts piled high with knitting yarn and Christmas sale items. Which way for candles? I lost valuable time passing through jewelry-making aisles and scrapbook supplies.Then I spotted the candle display. I picked up my pace. Lots of people were browsing.I found taper candles—I even located a bin labeled “purple,” but it was empty. Not one purple taper remained.So…other Advent shoppers have already been here, I surmised. I am not the only procrastinating Christian.I turned the corner and found pillars of all sizes and colors. Scanning them quickly, I found a tall cranberry colored pillar. I considered it for a moment.Close. Very close. But not quite.I glanced down. There, directly in front of me: three purple pillars.Hm…they aren’t as dark as I would have likeddarker than lavender, but lighter than the deep liturgical purple I was looking forI hesitated, studying those candles for just a moment, trying to imagine our family gathered around chunky pillar candles for Advent instead of tall, elegant tapers.But they are purple. And I need something for Advent. Then I decided. Yes, those will do. I’ll take them.Just as I lifted my arm to take hold of the candles, another lady reached right in front of me and snatched them, one after another—one, two, three—and placed them in her cart.I looked up at her in astonishment.She wouldn’t make eye contact.I’m ashamed to admit this, but tears welled up in my eyes. She got the last three purple candles in the entire city. But I knew it would be ridiculous irony to be jealous about her Advent success. I decided she must have needed those candles worse than I did. I tried to work up the nerve to say, “Happy Advent,” but she was hurriedly wheeling her cart away, making a call on her cell phone. Besides, she might mistake it as sarcasm, so I kept quiet and stared at the empty space where the purple candles had stood just seconds before.I walked slowly out of the store and drove home empty handed.That night I decided to order some sets of Advent tapers from CBD ( Though it was anti-climactic after my determined search, it seemed like a good idea. In fact, I bought three boxes, so that I’d have some extras on hand for the next two years.The day they arrived, the kids ran up and said, “You got a package, Mama!”I saw stamped on the outside. “Oh! It’s the Advent candles!”We slit open the box and pulled out the candle sets. One of my daughters helped unpack them and place the tapers in the wreath.”That looks nice,” I observed.”Thanks!” she said. “It’s weird that they’re blue, though.”I looked closely. “They’re blue?””Yes—can’t you tell? Look, it says so on the box.”Sure enough. Instead of purple, I had purchased three sets of Advent tapers containing three dark blue candles and one pink.She held up the pink. “And the pink is broken.”I sighed. “Nothing’s quite right,” I said. “Just about everything having to do with our Advent countdowns is messed up or broken.”She waggled the pink candle. “Should I pull out a pink candle from one of the other packs?””No, no. We’ll use it,” I said. “Nothing was quite right for Jesus’ birth, either, from a human perspective. We’ll use the broken ‘joy’ candle.”My daughter stuck it in the wreath. We stepped back and agreed.That’ll do.Postscript:You may recall from my earlier Advent post that most of my ideas came from online Catholic homeschooling friends. Well, it occurred to me today that I should see if the Catholic bookstore, which I’ve never set foot in, carries packs of Advent replacement tapers. I phoned them today.”Holy Family Bookstore. Can I help you?””I know it’s late in the season, but I’m curious: Do you have packs of Advent candles?””Of course!””You still have them? Right now, in stock?””We sure do!””A pack with three purple candles and one pink?””Yes.””And the three…they’re purple, not blue, right?””They’re purple. We don’t carry the blue.””Oh, my goodness. I searched far and wide for these, and you had them all along!”She laughed.I continued, “I may come over and buy some this very day. You have plenty on hand?””We have plenty on hand. Some people do plan ahead and stock up on these for next year.”I laughed. “Now that is a very good idea!”

  • There's always more to come: subscribe to Ann Kroeker by e-mail
  • Want to slow down in our fast-paced world? Check out Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families.
  • "Like" me on Facebook.
  • Follow me on Twitter.
  • Comments

    1. “Liturgical purple.” I don’t remember that color in my crayon box. Good point about things not being quite right. Perfect is not a goal of mine anymore.

    2. He heee…. I was thinking the whole time I was reading through, doesn’t this girl have a Christian bookstore around??? What a tale! We are completely untraditional, we have an advent box with 25 little doors and one plain white tealight behind each door along with the little card that boasts the advent verses for that day. By the end of the month we are lighting 25 tealights all spread over the top and sides of the piano before our reading and the kids love taking turns to blow them out. HAPPY advent dear Ann without an e.

      • annkroeker says:

        But walking into a Christian bookstore, plopping down $8 and taking home a set of Advent tapers would be so easy and uncomplicated! And obviously I’m not known for making the obvious, easy and uncomplicated moves in life. :)

        I love your tealight idea. Sounds simple and classy. And easy. And uncomplicated!

    3. I loved, loved, loved this! Every bit of it. And I was thinking to myself, “She needs to live in a Catholic town, like I do, because they have them at the grocery store.” Glad to know the Catholic bookstore helped you out.

      • annkroeker says:

        I missed the obvious choice. I’m kind of slow, I guess. I’m heading to the bookstore today to see them–maybe stock up on PURPLES.

    4. Wow, your description of the candles being snatched away makes me cringe. A great picture for me of how easily I can block people out when I’m on a mission, how that must make them feel invisible. ick!

      And your candle hunt sounds like my menorah hunt! (chronicled in a recent post) Who knew such items would be difficult to find?!

    5. I loved this story! I can so relate. For years, I would do the same thing…search all over town for the elusive pink and purple candles. Last year I discoverd they sold them in sets in a local Christian bookstore, that happens to have a Catholic section. I snatched up an extra set (no, I did not snatch them from anyone else…I better clarify that!) for this year. What a wonderful surprise it was to find my new set this year as I unpacked my Christmas boxes! (I had completely forgotten that I had done that) Your story reminds me I should go get a set for next year!

      • Way to go! What a lovely surprise–maybe I should pack up my extra Advent candles in the turkey teapot? Then I would see them when I pull the teapot out for Thanksgiving and know that I don’t have to brace myself for a frustrating mission.

    6. I laughed and loved this joyous story so much! I am happy you finally found the candles you wanted and right where they should be!

      • annkroeker says:

        I’m posting photos in a moment (new post coming up) that show how I could have been in and out of one store and been done with it. Of course, I wouldn’t have written such an amusing story if I knew this year how easy it could have been. :)

    7. I loved your story . I work at a Hallmark store and have been getting my Advent candles there. They’re really nice candles and burn beautifully. They come 3 purple and 1 pink to a box for about $6. Hope you are having a beautiful Advent.

      • annkroeker says:

        Well, hello, Hallmark! I do have a Hallmark store nearby and it never occurred to me to stop by! Thanks for the tip, Michelle!

    8. Hi Ann,
      Your story was great and entertaining. It seems I always leave buying the Advent candles ’til the last minute. So this year, I ordered them when I pulled out my autumn decorations. I ordered them from CBD, and I got 3 purples and 1 pink. However, my candles are small to fit into our different type of Advent wreath–there’s a post about that.
      The point you made about nothing being perfect about Jesus’ birth from a “human standpoint” touched me. It was just what I needed to hear. We just came back from the worst blizzard in 10 years to occur in Minnesota. We had planned the funeral for my husband’s sister who had Downs Syndrome and was in state care almost all of her life. The funeral was planned for Saturday~and that’s when the blizzard hit. Most of the relatives could not make the dangerous drive into the city and the caretakers couldn’t take a chance either. I was sad at first that we had only a handful of people to “send” Carol off on her eternity of freedom in Jesus’ loving arms. Then I saw the blanketed roads and snow piled high, growing deeper by the minute. I was grateful no one took that treacherous chance to come.
      But your comment gives me a whole new perspective on the funeral. Maybe a small service was all the Lord had planned for Carol. She was with Him rejoicing already. And maybe what seems perfect to us is not always the way the Lord does things. This could apply to soooo many areas of my life!
      Thank you for sharing the simple and beautiful touches of the Lord in your daily life.


    1. […] Ann Kroeker. Writer. Skip to content HomeAboutCorporateEssaysCreativeNot So FastLinksTraditionsNewsSpeed BumpsMediumMegaMiniSupplementalFamily DevotionalsQuiet Times & DevotionalsReading ListsSpeakingContact ← Three Purples and a Pink […]

    2. […] I learned last year how important it is to plan ahead for Advent when I failed to secure a set of Advent candles and wasted a lot of time searching for a last-minute solution. […]

    Speak Your Mind