Sunday December 2nd this year marks the beginning of the first week of Advent, the word coming from the Latin word adventus which means “coming”.
Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. For many Christians, the season serves as a reminder both of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of Christians for Christ’s return.
On the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Moravian, Presbyterian and Methodist calendars, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, which falls at some point between the dates of November 27th to December 3rd .
The Eastern churches’ equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast – it differs both in length and observances and, unlike most Western Christian churches, it does not begin their church year, which starts instead for them September 1.
In recent times the most common observance of Advent in many Western Christian churches has been the keeping of an advent calendar or advent candle, with one door being opened in the calendar, or one section of the candle being burned, on each day or week (respectively) in December leading up to Christmas Eve.
The keeping of an advent wreath is also a common practice, with four or five candles extending from the wreath each one being lit for each week before Christmas. The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches still hold the tradition of fasting for 40 days before the Nativity Feast.