Advent marks the start of the Christian year. It is the four weeks before Christmas, beginning on November 30 or the nearest Sunday to it. This is the Church's New Year's Day.
The word Advent comes from the Latin 'adventus' which means 'arrival' or 'coming'. This is the time for Christians to prepare for celebration of the birth of Jesus and look forward to the time that Jesus will come again.
During Advent many churches don't have flowers decorations, but it is usual to have an Advent Wreath also known as an Advent Crown. These are made from a circle of evergreen plants like holly and ivy which symbolises God with no beginning or end. The evergreen is a reminder that God does not change and remind us of imortality and everlasting life. The holly is also a symbol of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. Four candles, which remind of the four week of Advent are fixed round the circle with another in the middle which represents Christ at the centre of our lives.
Various colours of candles have been used such as three purple and a pink with one white in the middle. Unlit candles represent darkness. One purple candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent. On the second Sunday it is lit again together with another purple one, the third purple one is lit on the third Sunday and on the fourth Sunday the pink candle is included. On Christmas Day the white candle is also lit representing Jesus Christ as the light of the world. Sometimes four red candles and one white are used, red being a colour associated with Christmas.
What do the Advent Candles stand for?
1. The candle of Hope so prayers on this day focus on hope.
2. This candle is a symbol of God's Peace, reminding Christians of the Prophets who said that the Messiah would be born.
3. The candle of Love, represents John the Baptist who baptised Jesus.
4. The candle of Joy reminds Christians of Jesus' mother, Mary.
5. The fifth white central candle reminds Christians of the birth of Jesus.
Christingle means 'Christ's Light' and it is a symbol of the Christian faith. Lots of churches hold Christingle services around Christmas time. The custom of giving out lighted candles in these services began in Germany in 1747 but it wasn't introduced to England until 1968.
Christingles are made up of different parts, each one being there to remind us of something.