If you have you ever had an Advent Calendar you will know that the idea is to open a numbered door each day from 1st December to Christmas Eve. Behind each door is a surprise, often chocolate but have you ever wondered why we have Advent Calendars and what Advent is all about?
Advent marks the start of the Christian year. The first day of Advent is known as Advent Sunday. Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas, beginning on the Sunday nearest to November 30. It can fall between November 27 and December 3. Advent always ends on December 24 which is known as Christmas Eve. This is the Church's New Year's Day. The word Advent comes from the Latin 'adventus' which means 'arrival' or 'coming'. This is the time for Christians to prepare for celebration of the birth of Jesus and look forward to the time that Jesus will come again.
The clergy usually wear purple or royal blue clothing in their churches during Advent. This is a picture of a Church of England vicar on the second Sunday of Advent service.
During Advent no flowers decorate churches, but it is usual to have an Advent Crown also known as an Advent Wreath. These are made from a circle of evergreen plants like holly and ivy which symbolises God with no beginning or end. The evergreen is a reminder that God does not change. The holly is also a symbol of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. Four candles are fixed round the circle with another in the middle.
Various colours of candles have been used such as three purple and a pink with one white in the middle. Unlit candles represent darkness. One purple candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent. On the second Sunday it is lit again together with another purple one, the third purple one is lit on the third Sunday and on the fourth Sunday the pink candle is included. On Christmas Day the white candle is also lit representing Jesus Christ as the light of the world. Sometimes four red candles and one white are used, red being a colour associated with Christmas.
What do the Advent Candles stand for?
- The candle of Hope so prayers on this day focus on hope.
- This candle is a symbol of God's Peace, reminding Christians of the Prophets who said that the Messiah would be born.
- The candle of Love, represents John the Baptist who baptised Jesus.
- The candle of Joy reminds Christians of Jesus' mother, Mary.
- The fifth candle reminds Christians of the birth of Jesus.
In many advent services children have fun making Christingles.