Advent Calendar
Advent calendar. Photo: Andrew Eason.

Advent candles
Advent candles in shades of royal purple.
Photo: Alex Harden.

What is Advent?

The season of Advent (Latin adventus, "coming") marks the beginning of the church year. In the Western churches, it encompasses four Sundays, beginning with the Sunday nearest to November 30 and ending on Christmas Eve. In Eastern Orthodox churches, Advent is longer, usually beginning on November 15.

History of Advent

Historically, Advent is a period of fasting, repentance, and preparation for Christ's second coming and the Day of Judgment. It is unknown exactly when Christians began to observe Advent.

In the 5th century, the Bishop of Tours instituted a fast beginning on November 11, and the acts of the Council of Tours in 567 mention an Advent season.

In 581, a synod in Gaul declared that from November 11 to Christmas, the mass shall be performed using the Lenten rite on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week.

Advent Practices

More recently, Advent has become an anticipation of the historical coming of Christ at Christmas. Fasting is generally no longer observed, except in some Eastern churches. The royal colors of blue and purple are incorporated into most Advent services.

The most popular non-religious observance of Advent is the Advent Calendar, usually made of several layers of cardboard or paper. Children open a new "door" each day of Advent to reveal a small toy or chocolate treat.


  1. "Advent."  Encyclopædia Britannica. 2003.  Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. 
  2. Bowker, John, ed., Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions.
  3. Mershman, Frances, "Advent." Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. 1907.

Further Reading on Advent

Advent Shopping

See Also

« Mardi Gras
Ash Wednesday

Summary: Overview of Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.