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Advent Trivia information about the origins of Advent and the history of Advent through the years:
The word Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus, sc. Redemptoris, which means "the coming of the Saviour".
Advent is the four week period before Christmas Day and is a holy season of the Christian church, and marks the period of preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Advent always starts four Sundays before Christmas Day. Most of the church readings and sermons are based on the second coming of Jesus Christ as well as the historical readings of the birth (or first coming) of baby Jesus. Ministers talk about the first coming seeing Christ as a saviour and a time of celebration whilst he will judge in his second coming.
Sermons often reflect that Jesus' people, the Jews, would look forward to the coming of a King like David who will help them overcome their enemies who always beat them in wars and took away their land and freedom. Holy men and Prophets foretold the coming of a King to help the Jewish people. This King was called the Messiah. The common language at the time of Jesus' Earth mother and father (Mary and Joseph) was Greek and the Greek word for Messiah was Christ.
An example of one such Prophet was Isaiah who wrote in the Old Testament:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them.
A child is born to us!
A son is given to us!
And he will be our ruler.
He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace.
Advent is a time of celebration and reflection and brings a welcome period of joy, light, warmth and cheerfulness at the end of the year and during a dark month of winter.
Other Names For Advent
Alternative names for the Advent period are Winter Lent, Nativity Fast and Christmas Lent. The earliest Advent can begin is November 27 and the latest is December 3.
There are many traditions surrounding the Advent season. These include:
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The Advent Ring consists of a large or different coloured candle, usually white or gold, placed in the centre of a circle of holly, evergreens, ivy and fir to form a wreath. The circle of the wreath represents ongoing life. Four red coloured candles are placed around the middle candle, near to the outside of the wreath ring. On each Sunday prior to Christmas Day the four outer candles are lit during church services, each in turn for each of the four Sunday's. Ie on the first Sunday one candle is lit, on the second two are lit, on the third three are lit and four are lit on the fourth Sunday. The middle candle, which symbolises Jesus Christ, is lit on Christmas Day.
Readings from the Bible are read aloud to the church congregation whilst the candles are being lit. In olden days there would only be three candles which represented hope, peace and love.
Modern children (and some adults!) enjoy opening an advent calendar window each morning from the 1 December through to the 24 December, though some have a special window for Christmas Day. Early advent calendars had a picture behind the window, sometimes with a festive or religious message. Nowadays the windows open to reveal small piece of chocolate shaped into a star, Christmas tree, snowman, etc. Few calendars have religious themes and are mostly popularised with anything from Doctor Who, Daleks, dogs, Postman Pat, teddy bears, etc. Advent calendars originated in Germany in the late 1800s.
A modern internet variation of advent calendars is advent calendar website competitions where you can use your mouse to open the window each day leading to Christmas to reveal a prize or shopping offer. There is more written about this on our advent calendar competitions page where this is also a list of such free to enter competitions.
These work on the same principle as an advent calendar in that a decorative candle is marked off with 25 special markings or numbers and the candle is lit each night and the day's length is burnt. The candle is then lit on the 25th and completely burnt.
Special Advent prayers are said at this festive time. An example, written by Charles Wesley, is:
Come, thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set thy people free,
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
Prayers that are easily understood by children are taken from the book of Psalms. An example is from verse 5 of the third Psalm:
When I lie down
I sleep in peace
for God is by my side
to keep me safe
from every harm
be my guide.
St Martin's Fast Lent
In olden days Christians would fast, much like Easter Lent. This was known as Saint Martin's Fast though was sometimes called Saint Martin's Lent. The Church of England no longer celebrate this but the Roman Catholic Church still see this period as a time of penitence. The RC priests still wear purple or blue vestments and liturgical colours to symbolise this fast. Though the blue colour is also from a time when medieval England would celebrate the Sarum Rite. Sarum is the Latin name for Salisbury.
In former times in England poor women would carry two dolls which were said to be Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Earth mother. These were known as Advent Images. They would be shown people and households and they would have to give the women a halfpenny piece. If people or householders refused to part with the money then they would receive bad luck, as would those who did not receive a visit from a woman with such Advent Image Dolls.
Other Countries had and some still do have different customs surrounding Advent. These include:
French Advent Customs
Farmers would pay children younger than 12 years to carry a lit torch of fire through their fields and get them to set fire to bundles of straw. They believed the fires would destroy vermin that may destroy future crops.
Italian Advent Customs
Bagpipe players play by the shrines of the Virgin Mary. This is known as Calabrian pifferari and originates from when the shepherds played pipes when they approached the manger at Bethlehem to pay their homage to Jesus, the Messiah.
More Xmas trivia questions.
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