There has been excitement as the children have been receiving their advent calendars. The pictures behind the doors, the sweets or chocolates – each offering a new treat for day. And every year the international competition for bigger, better, more expensive seems to fill the advertising on the internet. Fortnum and Mason, Hamleys, Harrods all offering wonderful treats. There is a rare and old whisky advent calendar advertised for £10,000, a Porsche design Calendar for 1 million USD and Frankfurt Jeweller is offering a jewellery calendar for £2.5 million.
Has the tradition of Advent been lost or corrupted? A time of preparation, purification – a famine before the feast. It was a time of giving alms to those who were needy in your own community.
As the lead up to Christmas, the celebration of the birth of the Son of God it was a time of spiritual preparation – meditation, prayer and often physical symbols to remind us of the divine.
The advent candles lit on the four Sundays before Christmas, each with its own colour and significance:
Purple The Prophecy The candle of Hope
Purple Bethlehem A time of Preparation
Pink Shepherds A time of Joy
Purple Angel Love
The last candle is white to reflect the purity of the birth of the Messiah and is lit on Christmas day.
The Christmas Tree
There are many different stories which attempt to explain why we use a tree at Christmas.
St. Boniface in the eighth century said the fir tree is the wood of peace, the sign of an endless life with its evergreen branches. It points to heaven. It will never shelter deeds of blood, but rather be filled with loving gifts and rites of kindness.
He is also said to have given balsam fir tree to the Druids in place of the oak tree which was the symbol of their idol.
Whatever the chosen route for preparation for Christmas, whatever the symbols we recognise in our daily lives, we will prepare for a winter feast, there will be light in the midst of the deep winter. The fun, games, enjoyment, the expectation of all the children and of course generosity of family – and if among the good will and festive cheer there can be a peace brought to our earth then Christmas will be truly celebrated.