Advent is originally a Christian tradition, seen as the time of expectant waiting and preparation for Christmas; the celebration of the nativity of Jesus. The word advent is adapted from the Latin word for ‘coming’. It’s also used in Eastern Orthodoxy for the 40-day nativity fast. For Christians, the season of advent anticipates the coming of Christ from three perspectives. “Since the time of Bernard of Clairvaux (d.1153) Christians have spoken of the three comings of Christ: in the flesh in Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and in glory at the end of time.”
The advent wreath was invented in 1839 by Pastor Johann Hinrich Wichern due to the impatience of the children he taught. He then made a crown of wood, with nineteen small red tapers and four large white candles. Every morning a small candle was lit, and every Sunday a large candle. Custom has retained only the large candles.
The candles also symbolise the great stages of salvation before the coming of the Messiah. The first is the symbol of the forgiveness granted to Adam and Eve. The second is the symbol of the faith of Abraham and of the patriarchs who believe in the gift of the Promised Land. The third is the symbol of the joy of David whose lineage does not stop and also testify of his covenant with God. The fourth and last candle is the symbol of the teaching of the prophets who announce a reign of justice and peace.
The most pervasive advent tradition of my non-Christian upbringing, was advent calendars. In Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden there is also a tradition of having a so-called Julekalender. In the form of a television or radio show, starting on December 1 and ending on Christmas Eve (December 24). Advent calendars are rectangular boards, traditionally wood, but typically cardboard, with ‘windows’ for each day of advent. Because the first Sunday of advent varies from 27th November to 3rd December, calendars are typically produced to start on the 1st of December, some continuing till New Year. If you’re studying IELTS Brighton English Courses, celebrate advent with a tasty hidden treat each day of December!