First Sunday of Advent

First Sunday of Advent Quick Facts - EU

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2023 Date3 December 2023
2024 Date1 December 2024

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Advent is a Christian liturgical season observed as a period of spiritual preparation in anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. This observance is characterized by themes of hope, peace, joy, and love. The period serves as a reminder for Christians to take time for self-reflection and repentance, as well as participate in acts of charity, kindness, and goodwill towards others. Important aspects of Advent include symbolic decorations like the Advent wreath and calendar, as well as the incorporation of special prayers, hymns, and scripture readings during church services.

The tradition of Advent can be traced back to the 4th century when Christians in Western Europe began practicing fasting and prayer in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Over time, these practices have evolved into the modern customs that are observed today. In the European Union, Advent is a significant period for many countries with diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, and the observance of Advent often varies by country and denomination. Nevertheless, a common element across the EU is the engagement in charitable activities during this period, such as fundraising events or volunteering at local shelters and food banks.

In the European Union, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, which means that the observance can start as early as November 27 or as late as December 3, depending on the calendar year. During this time, participants may attend church services, light candles on an Advent wreath, or unwrap small gifts in an Advent calendar each day. The celebration culminates with Christmas Eve and the birth of Christ, bringing an end to the Advent season. In some EU countries, the period leading up to Christmas is also marked by festive events, such as Christmas markets, tree-lighting ceremonies, and traditional performances, adding to the shared anticipation and joy of the season.

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First Sunday of 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.
  • In Germany and other German-speaking countries, the tradition of the Advent calendar began in the 19th century. These calendars typically feature 24 doors or windows to be opened each day leading up to Christmas, revealing small gifts or images related to the Christmas story.
  • Advent season is a time when many Europeans place an emphasis on charity, goodwill, and community. This can involve donating to those less fortunate, participating in food drives, or volunteering at organizations supporting vulnerable populations.

Top things to do in the EU 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.
  • Families and friends often gather for special meals during Advent, enjoying traditional dishes and sweets. In some countries, such as Germany and Austria, Advent is associated with special treats like Stollen or Lebkuchen.
  • Advent wreaths, made of evergreen branches, are adorned with four candles, symbolizing each Sunday of Advent. These wreaths are often displayed in homes, churches, and public places.

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