10 Things You Need to Know About Advent [Akin]



Advent begins on Sunday, December 1st.

Most of us have an intuitive understanding of Advent, based on experience, but what do the Church’s official documents actuallysayabout Advent?

Here are some of the basic questions and (official!) answers about Advent.

Some of the answers are surprising!

Here we go . . .

1. What Is the Purpose of Advent?

Advent is a season on the Church’s liturgical calendar–specifically, it is as season on the calendar of the Latin Church, which is the largest Church in communion with the pope.

Other Catholic Churches–as well as many non-Catholic churches–have their own celebration of Advent.

According to the*General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar:

Advent has a twofold character:

*]as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered;
*]as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time.
[/LIST]Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation [Norms 39].

We tend to think of Advent only as the season in which we prepare for Christmas, or the First Coming of Christ, but as the General Norms point out, it is important that we also remember it as a celebration in which we look forward to the Second Coming of Christ.

Properly speaking, Advent is a season that brings to mind the Two Comings of Christ.

2. What Liturgical Colors Are Used in Advent?

Particular days and certain types of celebrations can have their own colors (e.g., red for martyrs, black or white at funerals), but the normal color for Advent is violet. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides:

The color violet or purple is used in Advent*and Lent. It may also be worn in Offices and Masses for the Dead [346d].

In many places, there is a notable exception for the Third Sunday of Advent, known asGaudeteSunday:

The color rose may be used, where it is the practice, onGaudete*Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent)and onLaetareSunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent) [GIRM 346f].

3. Is Advent a Penitential Season?

We often think of Advent as a penitential season because the liturgical color for Advent is violet, like the color of Lent, whichisa penitential season.

However, in reality, Advent isnota penitential season. Surprise!

According to the Code of Canon Law:

Can.* 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Although local authorities can establish additional penitential days, this is a complete listing of the penitential days and times of the Latin*Church as a whole, and Advent is not one of them.

4. When Does Advent Begin and End?





A good run through on the practices and customs of Advent and Christmas here.


Thank you for sharing that. I enjoyed reading it and learned a few things, too.


The Advent Wreath, with its four candles fixed on a circle of evergreens, has its roots in pagan northern Europe, which the Lutherans first adopted as a Christian symbol. The circle represents the never-ending cycle of seasons while the evergreens symbolise the persistence of life even during winter. Christian symbolism differ slightly: the circle represents the the eternity of God while the evergreens tells of Jesus, who death could not conquer. The four candles are lit one every Sunday, causing all candles to be of different heights by the end of the season. There are three purple candles and a pink/rose one for the Third Sunday of Advent. Sometimes, there is a fifth white candle in the middle to symbolise Christ, and is lit on Christmas Day or Christmas eve.

The Advent Calendar that we have today seems to be a combination of two separate customs. The original advent calendar notes the goals for personal prayer and penitence for the different days in this period of penitence. This calendar is now merged with the Jesse Tree, named after King David’s father and unfortunately a dying custom. Symbols of saints and Old Testament prophets & patriarchs are hung on the Jesse Tree, one on each day of Advent.

Santa Claus as we know it today is largely a commercial creation from a religious figure. Santa Claus comes from the name St Nicholas, who was a bishop of Myra, a town in today’s Turkey. He once anonymously threw three bags of gold coins, one bag each night, through a window of a man who was too poor to afford marriage dowries for his three daughters. In one version of the story, he dropped the last bag down the chimney (because the father was on watch to find out who his benefactor was after the first two nights) and the bag fell down a stocking that the girl was hanging out to dry at the fireplace - origins of our Christmas stocking.

St Nicholas is the patron saint of children and in Old Holland, St Nicholas (Sinter Klass in Old Dutch, from where we get Santa Claus) would bring presents to children on St Nicholas feast-day on Dec 6, a serious man dressed in a bishop’s cape and a red mitre. Also, in Old England, Father Christmas was celebrated as a jolly man who brought merriment and goodwill on Dec 6, dressed in green or red robes lined with fur. Those costumes merged (with the mitre becoming the floppy red hat) and were finally made definitive in Coca-Cola’s Christmas advertisement from the 1930s. Yes, our image of Santa Claus today was an advertisement - how much more commercialised can you get than that?


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