Washington [US], November 28 (ANI): If you spot wreaths, candles and people checking Sundays on calendars around you, it is a sign that Advent season has arrived. Churches all across the Christian World start changing their drapes to violet or blue as the four-week-long celebration, which commenced this year on November 27, begins.
Date and History
Advent begins on the closest Sunday to St. Andrew's Feast Day, which takes place on November 30. This year, Advent started on November 27. It would last for the coming four Sundays. The festivities may last between 21 to 28 days depending on the date of the inaugural Sunday. Families in the United States attend a church service on that day. They also gift Advent Calendars in various shapes and styles to their near-and-dear ones. Many Christian houses install countdown calendars on their doors or windows, which remain till Christmas arrives.
Advent's origin as a period of celebration is hard to be traced but is believed to exist as early as 480 AD. Initially, it was celebrated as a six-week period with three days of fasting per week.
Since the thirteenth century, however, the significance of fasting diminished and the festivities became more centred on inculcating feelings of hope and anticipation for the birth and second coming of Jesus Christ.
In the United States, Advent celebrations came from Europe around the period of World War II. They were brought to their homestead by American military personnel stationed in countries like Germany, who adopted it as part of their own pre-Christmas celebrations.
Additionally, the 34th US President, Dwight Eisenhower, has also been credited with popularizing the tradition of the Advent Calendar in the country.
The word 'Advent' comes from the Latin word 'adventus', meaning 'arrival'. It is meant to be a celebration of the Earthly arrival of Jesus Christ in spirit. It is also significant for devout Christians to anticipate in hope and peace for the second coming of Christ, i.e., the reappearance of Christ on Earth after his original ascending to heaven 2000 years ago.
Particularly for followers of Western Christianity, Advent also serves as the beginning of their liturgical New Year.
Each of the four weeks of Advent is attached to a feeling which brings Christians closer to God. A candle is lit each week with feelings of hope, anticipation, joy and love/adoration in mind. Other than candles, an essential symbol of Advent is the wreath.
Created out of evergreen leaves, the wreath symbolizes everlasting life in the middle of the white winter. While the circular shape of the wreath signifies God's eternal love.
In its initial days dating back to before the 6th century, Advent used to be observed by fasting for six weeks. However, the importance of fasting diminished starting from the 13th century, being replaced by the increased focus on remembrance of the moment Jesus Christ made his Earthly arrival, and hope for his second coming.
It has numerous regional variations in its festivities across the globe. But three of its most common traditions include lighting candles, gifting advent calendars and decorating homes with wreaths.
Advent Calendars are often wrapped with chocolates to make delightful gifts for children in countries like Germany and Hungary. Devout Christians also recite daily prayers and perform hymns in praise of God during this period. (ANI)