Advent is one of the biggest events in the Christian calendar – but how much do you know about it?
Taking its name from the Latin word meaning ‘coming’, it is a religious feast that celebrates the expectant waiting and preparation for Christmas.
From advent calendars to advent wreaths and candles, many of our Christmas traditions come from the tradition.
Here’s all you need to know about advent:
When does advent start?
While advent calendars start on December 1, when you can pop open the first door and eat that first chocolate (or beer or cheese as more modern advent calendars offer), that isn’t mean advent itself actually begins.
Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas – so depending how the calendar falls it can start in late November or early December.
So for 2018, advent actually starts on Sunday, December 2 – which is this weekend.
Why do we celebrate advent?
Advent is a Christian tradition which dates back well over a thousand years.
There is no exact date for when people started to observe advent but it was certainly in existence from about 480 AD – although some say it goes back to the Twelves Apostles of Jesus or that it was founded by Saint Peter.
In many Christian churches advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas as well as the return of Jesus at the second coming.
Where do advent calendars come from?
Whether your young or old the chances are you probably have an advent calendar in some form or another – from the traditional chocolate ones, to more grown up variations involving alcohol.
Traditional advent calendars feature the manger scene and sometimes have nothing but pictures behind the windows.
The original advent calendars come from Germany dating back to the early 1800s, when German protestants would burn candles each day to mark the count down to Christmas.
Advent calendars were referenced in a book by Elise Averdieck in 1851.
Early versions of the modern style advent calendars were called ‘Nicholas calendars’ and were handed out to children on December 6, the feast of St Nicholas.
Gerhard Lang created the first commercial printed advent calendar, with windows to open each day, in 1908 – basing it on a childhood memory. As a boy his mother made 24 cookies in the build up to Christmas, but he was only allowed to eat one a day and this provided the inspiration for his design.
What other advent traditions are there?
Christian churches will have advent wreaths with five candles in – one for each of the Sunday’s leading up to Christmas and then a final one to be lit on Christmas Day itself.