Can you believe that the countdown to Christmas is officially on? Come 1st December and children nationwide will be opening those little doors on Advent Calendars eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival. Only 24 more sleeps to go, only 23 more sleeps to go – and so on…
Ever wondered though how this tradition came about and why? Is it a worldwide thing or do they have other traditions in other countries? Read on to learn more…
Advent, which literally means ‘the arrival’ or ‘the coming’ is the time of year when Christians prepare for Jesus’s birth. Advent leads up to 25th December – Christmas Day and is very important in the religion of Christianity. As aforementioned, a common practice in the UK is to use an Advent calendar to count down to Christmas. Small numbered flaps (sometimes with chocolate hiding behind them) are opened each day on the run-up to the BIG celebration. Some schools, churches and family homes light Advent candles each Sunday leading up to Christmas. The candles (of which there are usually 4) are then placed on a wreath. The four candles for the Sundays of Advent each have their own specific meaning – 1. Hope, 2. Peace, 3. Joy and 4. Love.
Learning about Advent traditions from around the world is a great way to expand our knowledge of other countries. In China, beautiful paper lanterns are made and displayed on the houses that are celebrating Advent. There, the name for Santa Claus is “Dun Che Lao Ren”, which literally translated means “Christmas Old Man”.
In Denmark, Christmas Advent wreaths are usually made out of bread. Some Danes eat their beautiful baked goods, whereas others display them with candles on top. Another long-standing tradition in Denmark is to use a ‘Calendar Candle.’ This is a candle with 24 lines marked on it and it is lit every day from 1st until 24th December (Christmas Eve).
Mexicans carry out a nine-day procession, from 16th to 24th December, where the Nativity is re-enacted. Young children walk from house to house singing a beautiful, traditional song. At the end of each night of the parade, a large piñata is broken and shared among families. Mexico sure knows how to have a good Advent!
Advent begins a little bit earlier in Australia – on or near 30th November and it ends on 24th December. Advent is considered to be a time of repentance, reflection and believing in Jesus Christ. Christians take part in musical celebrations in their churches on the first Sunday of Advent. Calendars and candles are also used to mark the countdown to Christmas and remembering Jesus’s birth.
Interestingly, the Christmas season begins in September in The Philippines and really ramps up during the nine days before Christmas. So from 16th to 24th December, Catholic Churches hold services starting from dawn! Some people in The Philippines believe that if you attend all these services on the run up to Christmas, then all your wishes will come true. Now, wouldn’t that be nice!?
Finally, in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Christmas is celebrated on 7th January. Many Christians in Ethiopia fast for up to 44 days before Christmas. For this special advent tradition, they fast from meat, fat, eggs and dairy products. During this time, many prayers are said and many good deeds are undertaken. The fast is broken with a special Christmas feast. Wow!
We hope you have enjoyed finding out about Advent and what lies beyond the country in which we live. Religious holidays all seem to have common themes but all take a slightly different tack in how they celebrate. However you are celebrating Advent this year, we hope you have a blast. For us, we’re going to look forwards to eating a little piece of chocolate each morning whilst thinking about the meaning of Christmas. The Countdown is on…