What is the meaning of Advent? The Christian season of Advent marks the waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Its name comes from the fitting Latin word “adventus”, which translates variously as coming, arrival or ripening, with the celebration dating back to the earliest centuries of Christianity. Although we may be familiar with the calendars and candles which count down to Christmas through December, for Christians it is the four Sundays before Christmas which are known as Advent.
Christmas is fast approaching, and the time has almost come to begin truly embracing the festive spirit by delving into your Advent calendar. For many, that daily treat of chocolate (or perhaps something a little more exotic/boozy/weird) is the only time you’ll think about Advent – but for those wanting to learn a little more, here’s what the Christian season is all about. When does Advent start in 2018?
Advent doesn’t actually begin on 1 December each year – in 2018 Advent Sunday, the start of the season, falls on the 2nd. The date is calculated from the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This coincides as the closest Sunday to St. Andrew’s Day, which falls on 30 November. Because of this, Advent can begin on any date between 27 November and 3 December and can coincide with the celebrations of Scotland’s patron saint.
Historically, it was associated with a period of fasting, with the second Council of Tours calling on monks to abstain throughout December in 567. During Advent, both the first and second comings of Christ are celebrated through church readings, while the season also marks the beginning of the Western Liturgical Year.
Various traditions have arisen which mark the period, from wreaths and the lighting of Advent candles or Christingles to the more general preparations for Christmas such as trees, carols and decorations.
The first candle is lit on the Advent wreath on the three Sundays leading up to Christmas.
Why do we have advent calendars?
For many though, the period means one thing, and one thing only: Advent calendars. The tradition arose from German Protestants in the 1800s as a way for children count down to Christmas Day, and spread across the world during the 20th century to become the main secular observance of the season.
Gerhard Lang is thought to have created the first commercially printed Advent calendar in 1908, inspired by his mother, who sewed 24 cookies into the lid of a box and allowed him to eat one per day through December. Traditionally, calendars can be adorned with biblical verse, the nativity scene and other religious imagery, or daily chocolates or treats.
However, for many, Church services and readings can best commemorate the coming of Jesus during Advent