First Sunday Advent
When is First Sunday Advent?
First Sunday Advent marks the start the western Christian year. The exact date varies each year, but it is always on the Sunday near St. Andrew’s Day. First Sunday Advent is also as the kick-off holiday to the Advent season, which ends on Christmas Day. The whole Advent season lasts between 22 and 28 days, and always encompasses three Sundays including First Sunday Advent.
History of the Advent
The date of the First Sunday Advent is unknown. Given the fact that the holiday is celebrated within western Christian churches, it was likely founded after the Great Schism that divided the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church. Eastern churches celebrate the days leading up to Christmas, which consists of a timeframe of 40 days called the Nativity Fast. First Sunday Advent should not be confused with the Nativity Fast.
Traditional Religious Customs
Given the significance of Christmas in the Christian church, it’s no surprise that First Sunday Advent is an extremely important way to mark the season. Churches mark the holiday with services dedicated to reminders about the significance of the birth of Jesus. Some churches may choose to light extra candles during the services. Candle lighting ceremonies are also commonplace within the homes of families that celebrate First Sunday Advent.
Fasting is considered an ancient way of observing First Sunday Advent; however, some observers still choose to celebrate the holiday in such a way. The fast may be for a full 24-hour period, or it could be for a significant portion of the day. Young children, the elderly and the ill are typically not expected to participate.
Other traditional religious customs aren’t as serious as fasting. In many regions, First Sunday Advent marks the day in which families can start preparing for the Christmas holiday. This includes everything from sending out cards, shopping for presents, decorating the tree and decking the halls. Waiting until First Sunday Advent is not as commonplace in many western nations, where the Christmas shopping season is seen as early as before Halloween.
Popular Modern Celebrations
While First Sunday Advent remains a deeply religious holiday, many of its traditions have made their way into the modern secular market. The Advent calendar is just one example of this. These calendars are sold in stores in the form of cardboard boxes marked with the correct number of days in the Advent for that year. In some cases, manufacturers simply start the Advent calendars on December 1st and end them on December 25th, Christmas Day. Most modern day Advent calendars contain chocolates and other small treats enclosed in doors on each day of the calendar. In other countries, Advent calendars contain other gifts representative of those given by the Three Wise Men to Jesus Christ after his birth.
Wreaths are another popular way to celebrate First Sunday Advent. Some families choose to decorate their front doors with traditional Christmas wreaths starting on the holiday. Others mark the occasion by displaying purple wreaths—the color represents royalty to commemorate the Jesus, the king in Christianity.
The extent of First Sunday Advent varies by region. In secular nations like the United States, the holiday isn’t public. Citizens who choose to celebrate the holiday may do so, most often by attending special church services. Celebrations are more public and widespread in other countries, such as Germany.
By: Kristeen Cherney