The first Sunday of Advent is almost upon us (Picture: Getty)
For many of us, the countdown to Christmas 2021 is on!
Whether you’re religious or simply enjoy Christmas a national holiday, it’s a time for feasts, present-giving and making precious memories with our loved ones.
But these weeks running up to Christmas Day mark a very important period in the Christian calendar.
Here’s what you need to know.
When is the first Sunday of Advent this year?
Advent begins this year on Sunday, November 28.
The season lasts for four Sundays and the following weeks. This takes us through the remainder of November and every day in December, until Christmas Eve.
A wreath and candles laid out for Advent (Picture: Getty)
In 2021, Christmas Eve (December 24) takes place on a Friday, meaning Christmas Day (December 25) is on Saturday.
Of course, this differs from many advent calendars we see in shops, which typically start on December 1.
What does the first Sunday of Advent represent?
In the West, Advent is a time to prepare for the upcoming celebrations of the Nativity (birth) of Jesus Christ.
The Church also takes this time to remember the anticipation felt by the Jews (or Israelites, as they were called then), as they awaited the prophesied coming of the Messiah.
On each Sunday of Advent, Christian churches may focus on a different aspect of this story, such as:
Week 1: God’s people, looking to the future with hope.
Week 2: The prophets, who foretold the coming of the Messiah.
Week 3: John the Baptist, who preached in the desert, as well as baptising Jesus.
Week 4: The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.
An orange, wrapped in a red ribbon with a candle and sweets attached is called a Christingle, which is part of the Advent (Picture: Getty)
Of course, which topics are covered in services will vary a lot depending on the church or denomination of Christianity.
Commonly, churches build wreaths of four purple candles, lighting a new one as each of the four Sundays/weeks pass – starting with the first Sunday of Advent.
On Christmas Day, a fifth candle is lit to represent Jesus Christ. Usually, it’ll be white or gold. You may hear this type of wreath referred to as an ‘Advent crown’.
Other practices, such as daily prayer, lighting a Christingle and decorating the home for Christmas, are also standard.
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