Advent is probably best known today by the paper Children’s Advent Calendars that start to be opened on December 1 as a countdown to Christmas. Traditionally they portrayed a Manger Scene depicting the birth of Jesus Christ, with windows to be opened each day until December 25, Christmas Day.

More commonly now the Advent calendar has a non-religious Christmas scene of snow, or toys, with a chocolate or gift behind each window. There are more elaborate ones made of wood or cloth with compartments for presents. There are also ones for adults with gifts behind each window; gone is the original intention of a time of prayer and penance, in preparation for Christmas.

Our Catholic Church of SS Alban & Stephen has an Advent Wreath with 4 candles, 3 purple and one pink, arranged around a ring of greenery. One candle starts to be lit on each of the 4 Sundays before Christmas. The lighting of the candles is always purple for the first two Sundays of Advent, and the fourth; the purple signifying a time for a ‘little Lent’. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent ‘Gaudete Sunday’, signifying joy that the waiting for the birth of Jesus is nearly over.

The lighting of a single advent candle, marked into 25 sections length ways, and burnt down, one mark at a time, is a simple way of anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ, the ‘Light of the World’ and the origin of Christmas.

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