Advent Quick Facts - SE

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2023 Date3 December 2023
2024 Date1 December 2024

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Advent is a Christian observance that prepares believers for the coming of Jesus Christ to celebrate his birth at Christmas. The word Advent, derived from the Latin word “adventus,” means coming or arrival. The period serves as a time of reflection, anticipation, and preparation for the celebration of Jesus Christ's nativity. It also marks the beginning of the liturgical year in the Western Christian calendar and encompasses four Sundays, leading up to Christmas Day.

The observance of Advent dates back to the 4th century when it was originally a period of fasting and reflection for new Christians preparing for baptism. In Sweden, the holiday holds great cultural significance, with many special customs and traditions specific to this time of year. One such tradition is the use of the Advent calendar, which originated in Germany but has been widely adopted in Sweden. This daily countdown to Christmas helps build anticipation for the holiday season. Another important aspect of Advent in Sweden is the celebration of Saint Lucy's day, or “Luciadagen,” on December 13th, which symbolizes the arrival of light during the dark winter months.

Swedish Advent celebrations are characterized by the prominent use of candles and light, representing hope and the coming of Jesus as “the light of the world.” One traditional element is the “Adventsljusstake,” a candelabrum with four candles, one lit each Sunday of Advent, often accompanied by sacred hymnals. Moreover, most households display decorative paper or electric Advent stars in their windows, illuminating the darkness during the long winter evenings. It is also common for families to prepare special treats, participate in church services, and come together for festive gatherings. In Sweden, the Advent period officially starts on the first Sunday between November 27th and December 3rd, and concludes on Christmas Eve.

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Advent facts

  • Each Sunday in Advent has a particular theme The first week is faithfulness, associated with Christ coming in final victory. The second and third Sundays, which feature the stories about John the Baptist, represent hope and joy. The fourth Sunday, which covers the events that led up to the birth of Jesus, represents love.
  • Many churches light a candle on an advent wreath each Sunday to represent each theme. The wreath is either suspended from the ceiling or sits on a table. It is made of evergreen branches and holds four candles - three purple for the first weeks of Advent and a pink one for the last week. A white Christ candle is placed in the center and will be lit on Christmas.
  • A common activity for children is to make Christmas ornaments. Many church Christmas trees are decorated with these ornaments that represent symbols in Christianity, like doves and fish.
  • The Swedish Christmas buffet, known as Julbord, is a traditional meal enjoyed during Advent. It consists of various dishes such as smoked salmon, pickled herring, meatballs, sausages, and more. Julbord is often consumed at restaurants, workplaces, and homes throughout the Advent season.
  • The first electric Advent candelabra, or Adventsljusstake, was invented in the 1930s by a Swedish electrician. Today, these candelabra containing seven electric candles are a common sight in Swedish homes and public spaces during Advent.

Top things to do in Sweden for Start of Advent

  • Decorate your home with evergreens or go to a 'Hanging of the Greens' church service. Church members decorate the church in preparation for Christmas.
  • Hang up an advent calendar. Many of these decorative pieces have little doors that open and reveal holiday images or have pockets with small items in them that reflect the season. They are especially popular with children who enjoy opening the little doors to reveal chocolates.
  • During the Advent season, many Swedish families take part in the tradition of making "pepparkakshus" or gingerbread houses, which are beautifully decorated and displayed in their homes.
  • Explore various Christmas markets across the country, where you can shop for handmade gifts, decorations, and Swedish treats. Popular ones include the Stockholm Old Town Christmas Market, Liseberg Christmas Market in Gothenburg, and Skansen Christmas Market.

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