If the word „Advent“ is literally translated, we should actually speak of arrival. Advent refers to the arrival of Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Even today, the new church year in the Catholic and Protestant Church begins with the first Advent on the 4th Sunday before Christmas.
Advent as preparation time for Christmas
The Advent season does not stand alone, it aims at Christmas. In order to celebrate this festival properly, preparation is necessary – just like planning a big birthday party. A religious festival is not about organizational work, but about spiritual preparation.
This spiritual preparation was carried out classically with fasting and prayer. Fasting has not been required by the Catholic Church Law for Advent since 1917, so prayer moved more into the focus.
In the liturgy, the relationship to Lent before Easter can still be recognized today by the reduced floral decorations and the liturgical color purple. Even the beginning of the carnival season on November 11th has something to do with it, as here (as well as on the jolly days before Ash Wednesday) there was another celebration before the advent of Lent.
Four topics on four Sundays in Advent
Each of the four Sundays in Advent has a different theme:
The second coming of Jesus is the focus on the 1st Sunday of Advent.
The readings tell of the Apocalypse and the Last Judgment.
On the 2nd Sunday of Advent the believers focus on John the Baptist as a prophet.
The 3rd Sunday in Advent is called „Gaudete“ Sunday. „Gaudete“ means „rejoice“ translated. Once again, John the Baptist plays a central role on this Sunday. The liturgical color on this Sunday is pink.
The 4th Sunday of Advent is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. Christians celebrate the solemn festival of the “Conception of Mary” on December 8th.
Who invented the advent calendar?
The custom of the advent calendar developed in the middle of the 19th century. There is no real “inventor” – rather, around 1840 different ways of making the waiting time for Christmas tangible appeared in families.
The first simple advent calendars were 24 chalk lines on the wall. The children wiped a line away every day until Christmas.
Another form consisted of sticking 24 little pictures on the wall or window one by one until Christmas was just around the corner. In Catholic areas, for every good deed, children put straw in a manger so that the baby Jesus could lie comfortably.
The father of the advent calendar with door is the publisher Gerhard Lang from Munich. In 1902 he printed the first copies. The National Socialists reinterpreted the Christmas symbolism as fairy tale motifs and robbed the Advent calendar of its Christian roots. This contrasts with Catholic and Protestant Advent calendars with a pastoral and educational character.