Candles For Lent- A Lenten Cross

Having a Lenten cross is very similar to having an Advent wreath. In fact, it’s strikingly similar to having an Advent wreath. You put the candles on your table, and light one each week adding a new candle each Sunday during Lent until it’s Easter time. While an Advent wreath is shaped in a circle, the candles at Lent are in the shape of a cross.

candles for lent- lenten cross

I would like to insert here that this tradition doesn’t have to be shaped like a cross. Your candles could also be in a line, or in a circle- I’ve seen this all of these ways! You can check out a version here where the candles are in a line, and I’ll show you how to build your own set for just $3!

During both Advent and Lent, there is one Sunday that has the Liturgical color of pink (or more specifically, “rose”) rather than purple. In Advent, the pink Sunday is called “Gaudete Sunday”. During Lent, the pink Sunday is called “Laetare Sunday”. It’s the forth Sunday of Lent.

It’s actually traditional to construct your own Lenten cross from your Christmas tree (kinda lincoln log style). Alternately, you can also order a Lenten Cross to hold taper candles. I, however, did neither. We made our own simple version.

lenten cross- how to make your own

Start with a cheap tray of some kind that is capable of holding some sand. (The sand represents the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert.) I used an old Christmas tray that was abandoned at my house along with Christmas cookies. Spray paint it purple (for the liturgical color of Lent).

spray paint plate

Allow to dry. Fill with sand (being a good ‘ol South Carolina girl myself, I used actual sand from the beach. The rest of you can buy some from the store.) 😉 We got candles that were already in glass jars, but you could also use plain votive candles. Really, any pink and purple candles will work as long as they can stand up in sand. See how to paint your own pink and purple pillar candles here. Place your candles in the shape of a cross, and twist them a bit to get them to sit down into the sand.

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candle cross for Lent

That’s it! I suppose you could go without the sand if you’re really worried about your kids making a mess of it, but my kids were pretty good about leaving it alone. (I don’t allow them to touch the Advent wreath either.) Light one new candle each week, counting down the Sundays of Lent. Here’s the order you light your Lenten candles in:

lenten cross- how to make it yourself

Lighting the candles: You just light them during dinner when you say the dinner prayer, and blow them out when you’re finished eating. You light candle number 1 on Ash Wednesday, but you don’t add another the first Sunday of lent. Candle number 2 gets lit the second Sunday of Lent along with candle number 1. On the third Sunday of Lent, you light candles number 1, 2, and 3 and so on. On Palm Sunday, all the candles will be lit.

One year we used a red candle for the last Sunday (as the priest wears red on Palm Sunday) and added a Jesus with a cross to the sand.

lenten candle cross

Definitely check out all of my Lenten table display ideas here. I love having these candles on our home altar during Lent!

You’ll find all of my Lenten resources for kids here


  1. Love this! It really helps the kids sense that we are progressing towards Holy Week. Where did you get your votive candles in the jar?

  2. Kate Barnash says

    This is great! and a wonderful explanation of the different colors of the candles and how to use this.

  3. Linda Wilson says

    I love this lent idea. Where did you get the wooden cross? I looked online but did not find anything as simple as the one you pictured. Thank you for sharing!

    • That cross belongs to a friend, and her mother has had it since childhood. I couldn’t find where to get one. ???

      • Rosemary Mach says

        We bought one during the early 80s when our children were very small. I have since looked for one to buy for our children to share in their home. I haven’t been able to find another one. I purchased it through a Catholic Gift Supplier.

  4. Kristie Thompson says

    What prayers do you say for the lighting? I have always seen prayers for the Advent wreath but see nothing for this.