The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the Advent season, which lasts for around 22 to 28 days before Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday that falls nearest to St. Andrew's Day (which takes place on November 30). Advent is a time during which Christians begin their preparations to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ.
History of Advent
While the exact origins of Advent are unknown, records of the season have existed since at least the year 480. According to St. Gregory of Tours, Advent was introduced in the 5th century by Bishop Perpetuus, and was initially a period of fasting that lasted from November 11 until Christmas Day, and was also known as the Nativity Fast.
Throughout the centuries fasting fell out of fashion, stopped being compulsory, and instead became an optional observance of the Advent season. Only the most devout Christians fasted for the whole of Advent, while some practiced fasting for a few days before Christmas.
The official liturgical color of Advent is currently purple, or violet, which adorns churches and is worn by the clergy. In the past, however, the liturgical color was black, it represented the feeling of atonement that accompanied the preparations for Christmas. It was only in 1963, at the Second Vatican Council, that the spirit of Advent changed from one of fasting and repentance to one of hope and joy for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
The First Sunday of Advent
The First Sunday of Advent is considered the most important of the four Advent Sundays because it is when the preparations for Christmas and the Advent of Jesus Christ begin. This is the day when people start looking forward to the Second Coming of Christ.
Many people also begin opening their Advent calendars on this day, counting down the days until Christmas by opening a different window on each day that has different chocolate or treat behind it.
Fun fact: the Advent calendar became popular in the United States after World War II, when soldiers returning home from Europe brought advent calendars for their children, thus beginning that tradition in America.
This is also the day when the first candle of the Advent wreath is lit. The wreath, made with a branch from a fir tree, usually has four candles for the four Sundays of advent. The candlelit on the First Sunday of Advent symbolizes Hope. On the wreath, three candles are purple or blue, and one is pink.
How to observe the first Sunday of Advent
Many families will light the first candle on their Advent wreath and gather around it to pray. Children, and some adults, will also open the first window on their Advent calendars.
Churches often have a special service for the first Sunday of Advent, which several churchgoers attend to participate in the special Advent prayers and share in the hope of the Second Coming of Christ.
When is the first Sunday of Advent?
Here is a list of past and future first Sundays of Advent: