What is Advent?

Advent is the word that Christians use to describe the period leading up to the birth of Christ.  In the church calendar, Advent starts on the Sunday nearest to November 30 - November 29 in 2020 - and culminates on Christmas Day


The customs connected with Advent focus on preparation for the arrival of the baby Jesus. This is most popularly associated with advent calendars - which originally relied on near universal familiarity with Biblical stories. 

Modern commercial advent often have no religious iconography calendars - a point satirised by Heath's cartoon in The Spectator

Advent in churches

There are many church customs associated with Advent.  One is that members of the congregation each look after  a statuette of the baby Jesus for twenty four hours. 

The singing of 'carols' originated from pagan mid-winter festivals but developed into the modern tradition  during the 19th Century. Carol singing has been particularly popular in the Anglican church. This is formalised in the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols - most famously from Kings College, Cambridge.

Some churches have an advent wreath with five candles. These are one for each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day. The fifth wreath is for Christmas Day. There are also different readings on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day.

For most Christian denominations, Purple is the traditional colour used during Advent. It is used for hangings around the church and for vestments during services.

In he Lutheran tradition, blue, representing hope, is the colour most associated withAdvent.

Second Coming

A lesser known aspect of Advent in the Catholic tradition is the association with preparing for the Second Second Coming of Christ. This features more strongly before 16 December.