What’s Advent?

Something I noticed in my social media feeds yesterday was that people are wishing their followers a Happy Advent. Naturally, curiosity got the best of me so it led me to do some research.

Advent (adventus in Latin meaning arrival or coming) is celebrated by Christian denominations around the world. It marks a new spiritual year for the churches and is the period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent is observed four Sundays before Christmas so it can either take place at the end of November (like this year) or at the beginning of December. In Eastern Orthodox churches, there is a Nativity Fast which is observed 40 days before Christmas, from November 15 to December 24. Observers abstain from specific food and drink like wine, olive oil, meat, fish, and dairy to focus on prayer and almsgiving.

Nations around the world observe Advent in many different ways, much like how Christmas is observed. They observe Advent with calendars, wreaths, and candles along with special church services. How are these traditions observed? Let’s take a look at some of them today:

Advent Wreath
An Advent wreath is made from evergreen branches that are sometimes decorated but it always has four candles, each representing a Sunday during the time of Advent. The candles represent the passing of time, as is demonstrated each Sunday when one candle is lit on the first Sunday, two on the second Sunday, three on the third Sunday, and finally four on the final Sunday. The lighting of these candles can by accompanied by prayers and singing of carols.

Christingles are usually lit in the UK which have been observing this practice since the 1960s but the tradition dates as far back as 1700s Germany. A Christingle is an orange adorned with a red ribbon or tape, sweets or dried fruit, and a candle in the center. The orange symbolizes the world, the ribbon is the blood and love of Christ, the candle is the Light of the World, and the sweets that are stuck inside the orange represent all of God’s creations. Services are held either in church or at home where the Christingles are lit, prayers are said, and songs are sung.

Advent Calendars
The most familiar practice of Advent, Advent calendars have been used for generations, most likely dating back to about 1850. Advent calendars are used to count down the days until Christmas and the types of Advent calendars vary. Sometimes candles are lit as Advent candles but Advent calendars are usually known for having chocolate, a poem, or small gifts. Each Advent calendar is usually made from cardboard or paper and have 24 little openings, but can also have up to 32 openings to last until New Year’s.

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