The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus” and means “arrival”. Christians wait in Advent for the arrival of the Son of God.
In the Christian churches this is the time of preparation and expectation for the birth of Christ on 24 December. The Advent season begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and the 1st Sunday of Advent is also the beginning of the new church year. The old church year ends with the Sunday before the day of the dead or eternity. The simple rule of thumb is: The first Advent is always on the first Sunday after 26 November.
It is assumed that Advent dates back to the 5th century. In the Roman church there was initially a varying number of 4 to 6 Advent Sundays, until Pope Gregory (590 – 604) established four Advent Sundays as uniform.
Fasting began in many places on 11 November, Martin’s Day. It marked the end of the farming year at that time and food that was not suitable for Lent, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, had to be consumed. As a result, St. Martin was celebrated once again with a gourmet meal.The popular “Martinigans” on St. Martin’s Day still remembers this custom today.
The Advent wreath was invented by the Hamburg educator and theologian Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808 -1881), the founder of the “Rauhen Haus” in Hamburg. There he took care of the children living in poverty. They kept asking him when Christmas Eve would finally be. In 1838 he built the first Advent wreath from a wagon wheel. It consisted of 20 small red candles and four large white candles, which he put on the wreath every day. From the first Sunday in Advent, Wichern lit a candle for every day until Christmas Eve. This gave the children, then as now, orientation during Advent. From this traditional wreath the today’s Advent wreath developed, which is manufactured approximately since the year 1860 from pine green.
This custom first found its way into Protestant families. In Cologne, for example, an Advent wreath hung for the first time in a Catholic church in 1925. The custom is now widespread all over the world.
Traditionally, the Advent calendar is also used during the Advent season. The first printed Advent calendar appeared 1902 in the ‘Evangelische Buchhandlung’ in Hamburg and had the form of a Christmas clock.