Monday, 29 November 2010

Countdown to Christmas

In just two short days it will be December and the countdown to Christmas will begin in earnest. And I shall be celebrating such by counting down the days of Advent on this here blog!

Every day from December 1st up to and including Christmas Day I shall be sharing with you some of my own personal favourite Christmas moments from literature, film, music and television.

To get us in the mood I thought I'd get the ball rolling with a (very) brief look at what this business of Advent is all about.

A Brief History of Advent

Taken from the Latin word Adventus, meaning “Coming” (itself a translation from the Greek Parousia, meaning “official visit” or “arrival” - more commonly used in reference to the Second Coming of Christ) and marks the beginning of the Christmas season.

The actual focus of Advent has shifted somewhat over the last two thousand years. It began life as the Western Christian Church’s preparation for the Epiphany (various key events in Christ’s life, such as the coming of the Magi [wise men], baptism, performing of miracles, etc) as far back as 300AD, but less than three hundred years later had shifted focus to become more about anticipating Christ’s Second Coming.

It wasn’t until a further 1000 years after that that the more popular and well known tradition of expectation and preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ was finally added (arguably what Advent is solely known for in the present day, largely due to its increasing popularity as a secular celebration).

The original six week duration of Advent had been shortened to four weeks sometime in the 9th Century by the then Pope St Nicholas, although it wouldn’t be for another 1000 years (some time in the 19th Century) that the Advent Calendar would find its way into the myths and traditions of the season.

The original idea for the Advent Calendar came from German Lutherans who, starting on December 1st, would mark their doors every day with a line of chalk. This inevitably lead to other, more elaborate, forms such as the Advent Clock - the lighting of twenty-four candles in sequential order (with each candle usually appropriately numbered).

Although the first recorded case of an Advent Calendar as we know it today being used was as far back as the mid 19th Century, it wouldn’t reach popularity until after 1903 when the first printed versions began to be produced.

And the love for the humble Advent Calendar hasn’t waned since…apart from during the Second World War when the need to conserve paper for the war effort saw the tradition die out…

…until Hitler’s defeat, at any rate.

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