Skip to comments.Advent 2004: Symbols, Meanings, Facts, Calendar
Posted on 11/27/2004 1:53:03 PM PST by Salvation
"Customarily the Advent Wreath is constructed of a circle of evergreen branches into which are inserted four candles. According to tradition, three of the candles are violet and the fourth is rose. However, four violet or white candles may also be used (Book of Blessings 1510).
The rose candle is lit the third Sunday of Advent, for this color anticipates and symbolizes the Christmas joy announced in the first word of the Entrance Antiphon: "Rejoice" (Latin, Gaudete). For this reason the Third Sunday is also called Gaudete Sunday, and rose color vestments are permitted.
The Advent Wreath represents the long time when people lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the world. Each year in Advent people wait once again in darkness for the coming of the Lord, His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming in every moment of grace.
During Advent, family and friends can gather around the Advent Wreath lighting the appropriate candle(s), read from the daily Advent meditation and sing songs. The Church's official Book of Blessings also provides a blessing ceremony for the advent wreath which can be used in the absence of
During Advent, biblical persons representing the ancestors of Jesus, either in faith or bloodline, are gradually added onto a tree or branch, named after the father of David,. The symbols such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Jesse, David, Solomon, Joseph and Mary can be drawn, cut out or purchased
Manger/ Nativity Scene
The tradition of having a nativity scene or "crèche" was made popular by St. Francis of Assisi. It is a reproduction of the cave in Bethlehem with Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus in a manger, shepherds, angels, and animals. Each night during Advent, children are encouraged to place in the manger one piece of straw for each good deed done that day by a family member. This Advent tradition combines the spirit of conversion and the coming of Jesus. There is a blessing ceremony provided by the Church in the Book of Blessings for the crèche.
"The Word became Flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory: The glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love." (John 1:14)
The actual date of Christs birth is unknown. The Gospels do not record it and there is not any early tradition to identify it. Scholars identify the approximate year as sometime between 8 - 5 BC and the season as probably early spring. The feast day was placed where it was, in all likelihood, to supplant the practice of the winter solstice festival among pagan converts by pointing to Christ as the true light who comes into the world. The Western Church emphasizes the celebration of the Nativity or Birth of Jesus on December 25, while the Eastern Church celebrates His manifestation to the Magi on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6.
The word Christmas was derived from the Old English Cristes Maesse or "Mass of Christmas." Over the centuries it has become a comprehensive word including both the religious traditions and the secular traditions.
In North America, the early immigrants brought their different Christmas traditions. The Germans brought the Christmas tree, the Irish contributed the lights in windows of homes, Catholic immigrants brought Midnight Mass and everyone had their own Christmas carols.
The Lights of Christmas
The most obvious symbol of Christmas are lights Christmas candles, window lights, luminaries, lights on the Advent Wreath and Christmas tree. All signifying that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world.
The Christmas candle is an ancient tradition. It is usually placed in the center of the Advent Wreath to complete the removal of darkness and sin by the Coming of Christ.
Lights placed inside window sills depict a beacon to light the way for Mary, Joseph, and the coming of the Christ Child.
Christmas trees can be found almost anywhere, any size. For many people, the Christmas tree is only a seasonal decoration. To Christians it symbolizes the green of hope at a time of dying, the burning light of Christ at a time of spiritual darkness and the fruits of paradise. Its origin as a Christian symbol may trace to an historical event. When St. Boniface evangelized the Germanic tribes he chopped down their sacred oak to prove the impotence of their god. Just as Patrick used the shamrock as a symbol of the Trinity, Boniface used the evergreen as a symbol of the eternity of the true God. The Church provides a blessing ceremony in its Book of Blessings for use in the absence of a priest.
The appearance of holly is representative of the burning bush of Moses and Marys burning love of for God. The red berries and prickly points are symbolic of the crown of thorns and the bloody death that the Christ Child would eventually suffer.
Poinsettias are associated with Christmas as the lily is with Easter. In Mexico it blooms at Christmas time and is called the "Flower of the Holy Night." Its name is from the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Poinsett.
For most, Christmas is over by December 26 and life has resumed its normal activities. The Church, on the other hand, observes an Octave of Christmas until January 1 (after the Jewish practice of an 8 day celebration) and an extended Christmastime until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. (It is now celebrated on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8.) The popular Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," is rooted in the festive celebration of Christmastime and a celebration of the Catholic faith, from a time in England and Ireland when Catholics had to disguise their Catholic beliefs.
During Christmastime, there are feasts of three martyrs: St. Stephen on December 26, who represents those who went to their death willingly; St. John the Evangelist on December 27 who represents those who were willing to die but were not put to death, and the Holy Innocents on December 28, representing those who were put to death without their choice, recalling the events surrounding the Birth of Christ.
On the Sunday between Christmas and January 1, the Church celebrates the Holy Family. This feast is especially important today as many families today face struggles and challenges in living their Faith.
Epiphany is normally celebrated on January 6, although it can be celebrated on the Sunday between January 2 and 8, as is done in the United States and many other countries. It may also combine the celebration of all three epiphanies ("showing forths") of Christ His epiphany to the Magi at His birth, His epiphany to St. John at His baptism in the Jordan and His epiphany to the disciples and the opening of His public ministry by the miracle of Cana.
However, its primary significance is the closing of the Christmas season with the celebration of the visit of the Magi to the manger (Matthew 2:1-12). The Messiah is thus shown to have come to all people, not just the Jews. The three kings represent the three major races:
Blessing of Homes
A tradition associated with Epiphany is the blessing of homes with holy water and incense. Using blessed chalk, a parent or priest can mark the inside of the main door of the house with the initials of the Magi and a code of the current year connected with crosses: 20+C+M+B+02. Another explanation of the initials (C-M-B) are the fist letters of the blessing: Christus mansionem benedicat (Latin, "May Christ bless the house").
A THANK YOU BTTT!!!!!
You're welcome. What is your favorite thing about Advent?
The tradition of it ALL! Keeping everything in perspective. And the link between the Judeo/Christian faiths.
Thank you very much Salvation for posting this. It is simply beautiful!
Thank you for this timely ping, Sionnsar!
The Advent Wreath of course is an old favorite - we have one every year.
Another sweet tradition is for the children to do good deeds "to make a soft bed for the Baby Jesus." The manger in our creche is empty until Christmas morning - the kids write on tiny slips of paper any good deeds that they do, dedicate them to the Baby Jesus, and place them in the manger.
When I was little, we always had an Advent Calendar. My parents still have our old one.
Thank you, this post is lovely.
I love the "waiting" music we sing in church during Advent, songs like "O Come O Come Emmanuel."
At home we have Advent candles and a small Nativity scene... Every Sunday night in Advent one of the children does a short reading from an Advent prayer book I bought many years ago, and we light the candle(s). We also have "Advent treats" after the candle lighting -- little things to enjoy during the season, such as Christmas books (bought on sale the previous December 26th!). It's nice to read these books aloud after lighting the candles. I've been doing this since my 16-year-old was a toddler so we have quite a shelf full of Christmas books to enjoy at this point :).
A recent addition to our traditions is a daily Advent candle which is burned just long enough to erase that day's number from the candle. Mine came from Miles Kimball online.
We also mark St. Nicholas Day, the children line up their shoes in the hallway the evening of 12/5 and in the morning they find Christmas-wrapped chocolates inside. (A Santa from See's is always the favorite!)
My church has a Children's Sermon every week. The children are always given an Advent calendar at that time on the First Sunday in Advent.
Seriously, my family already keeps many of the wonderful, Holy customs you posted. Thanks so much, and I noted a few more we may have to add.
Has anyone read the Trapp family's book of Christian customs throughout the year? It's great, and every year National Review Online reprints a funny story of a large American family whose mother tried to impose all those wonderful Advent customs on her chaotic family.
It helps me to keep all these things in perspective.
Blessed Advent everyone. It starts in a few hours. I have my Advent wreath ready - that's the only "Christmas" decoration I allow in the house. At least for a couple of weeks! After that the children start to overrule me.
An "Advent" custom we adopted while I was working in Europe - a celebration of St. Nicolas' Day, December 6. I put candy in the children's shoes while they sleep. This gives them a little relief from the rigors of Advent and reminds them of the real origin of Santa Claus.
I have not had any luck getting my daughter to adopt to the Swedish customs of St. Lucy's day, December 13.
When I was a kid we usually had an Advent calendar, some fairly ornate, opened little "windows" for each day.
**And the link between the Judeo/Christian faiths.**
Many of the customs come from this. Especially the joruney to Bethlehem.