What is Advent?
- Advent is the four Sundays and weeks before Christmas or sometimes from the 1st December to Christmas Eve! Advent means 'Coming' in Latin and it's a time when Christians remember the coming of Jesus.
- Advent can start from the 27th November (the longest it can be, lasting 28 days) to the 3rd December (the shortest it can be, lasting 22 days). Advent can last from Advent only starts on the 1st December, and so lasts 24 days when Christmas Day is on a Wednesday.
- Some people fast during Advent to help them concentrate on preparing to celebrate Jesus's coming. Some people might not eat things like meat or dairy products.
- In many Orthodox Churches, Advent lasts for a set 40 days and is known as the Nativity Fast or Winter Lent. Depending on when Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas (25th December or 7th January), Advent can start on the 15th or 28th of November.
Counting Down to Christmas
Some people count down to Christmas during Advent. This is normally done using candles or a calendar.
There are two types of candles used to count down to Christmas. One looks like a normal candle with 24 or 25 numbers on it. The candle is lit every day through December burning down a day at a time. Lutheran Churches have used 24 little candles to count down through December from the 1700s.
An Advent Crown or Wreath often used in Churches rather than in people's homes. They are often made of a wreath of greenery and have four candles around the outside and one in the middle or in a separate place. Sometimes a more traditional candelabra is used to display the five candles. One candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent, two are lit on the second Sunday and so on, with all all five being lit on Christmas Day. Some Orthodox Church use an Advent Wreath with six candles - as their Advent last longer!
There are different types of calendars. The most common are made of paper or card with 24 or 25 little windows on them. A window is opened every day in December and a Christmas picture is displayed underneath. In the 19th Century, German protestant Christians counted down to Christmas by marking 24 chalk lines on a door and rubbing one off every day in December.
Paper calendars were first popular in Germany in the early 1900s. The first ones with 'doors' were made in the 1920s. The first Advent calendar with chocolate in it was made in 1958 but they only became popular in the 1980s.
Another type of calendar is a decoration with 24 boxes or bags as part of it. There's normally a little present (or chocolate!) in each box or bag.