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What is Advent?

The history and meaning of Advent.

By:  |  December 20, 2021  |    577 Words
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(Photo by: John Greim/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Ah, Christmas, a magical time for family, tradition, and celebration. What comes to your mind when you think about Christmas? Of course, many children would first think of Santa Claus, receiving gifts, and lots of sweet treats. Though, for many, there is a more meaningful reason to celebrate the holiday. Advent, a Latin word for “arrival” or “to come to,” is an essential part of Christmas that started many years ago. The word “advent” means the arrival of something, and when it comes to Christmas, it refers to the arrival of Jesus Christ into the world.

The History of Advent

The exact starting point of Advent is challenging to determine. The earliest written evidence is in modern Spain and Europe. However, there is some evidence that it started around AD 380. Current Advent practices are believed to have come into existence after December 25 became the official day to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, and lasts until Christmas Day. It is a time carved out for followers of Jesus to prepare their minds, bodies, and souls for the Second Coming. Later, it came to have a double meaning as it was also used to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Advent Celebrations Around the World

Typically, each of the four Sundays throughout the Advent season has a special theme. This could include the ceremonial lighting of the Advent candle and reading specific passages from the Bible. However, Advent practices vary in different places around the world.

There are approximately 44 million Christians in China. The Chinese Advent celebration involves the lighting of colorful paper lanterns and red paper pagodas placed in windows. Many of their traditions were passed along from the European missionaries that traveled to China.

Croatia celebrates Advent by lighting the candles on an Advent wreath on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. In addition, Croatians traditionally eat a form of dried cod on Christmas Eve known as Bakalar.

Advent in Mexico is a celebration known as Las Posadas, which means “The Inns.” The festivities take place between December 16 and December 24. The nine-day observance represents the journey of Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus.


(Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The United Kingdom embraces a relatively new way of honoring the Advent season, with an object called a Christingle. Christingles are made with an orange, a candle, red tape, and different kinds of sweets. The item represents Christ’s light in the world. There is also a church service involving prayer, reading scripture, and singing.

The Advent season is observed in America by lighting candles, attending church to pray and sing, and offering baked goods to family and friends. However, Advent calendars, which got their start in Germany, are maybe a better-known way to observe the season.

Advent Calendars

An Advent calendar is an exciting way to count down the days until Christmas. There are different forms of the calendar, but most commonly, it contains 24 doors labeled from 1 to 24. Participants open one door, starting on December 1, each day before Christmas. Some calendars include chocolate or different yummy treats, while more religion-based calendars hold important scriptures or devotionals for their recipients. The calendars are a fun way for the family to anticipate the holiday and to learn the true meaning of Christmas.

With so many fun ways to celebrate Christmas, no wonder it is considered the hap-happiest season of all!

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