Advent began in Christian traditions, as the time of waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christmas; the celebration of Jesus’s birth. Advent is actually Latin for ‘coming’ as in, Christmas is coming. This term is used in Eastern Orthodoxy in reference to a 40 day fast in celebration of the nativity of Jesus. In Christian tradition, there are three perspectives for the coming of Christ, including the flesh in Bethlehem, the daily presence in our hearts and the glory at the end of time.
In 1839 the Pastor Johann Hinrich Wichern, created the advent wreath in response to the impatience of the children he taught. Following this, a crown of wood, with nineteen red tapers and four white candles was made. Every morning they would light a small candle to celebrate being one day closer to Christmas, where as the larger candles would be lit on Sundays. The tradition today usually only includes the large candles for Sundays. The candles are symbolic also for the stages of salvation that happened before the coming of the Messiah. The first candle will represent the forgiveness granted to Adam and Eve. The second, the faith that Abraham held in God and the faith of the patriarchs for believing in the coming gift of the promise land. The third is the joy of David whose lineage continues. The fourth is the teaching from the prophets of times of justice and peace.
Advent calendars have become the prevailing advent tradition over the centuries. It is widespread across Europe and even comes in the form of a TV show in some countries. The typical advent calendar is a board of windows, traditionally made from wood, but now cardboard and containing chocolate. What a way to build up anticipation for the festive holiday.