Monday, October 19, 2009

Advent Wreath And Calendars Have Deep German Roots

The advent wreath has an almost mysterious background because its origins cannot be pinpointed. In almost all accounts Germany seems to have played a large part in its genesis. It would seem no matter how unusual this seems German seems to be the first countries to formalize the use of that advent wreath.

Maybe more than the advent wreath, the advent calendar is even more associated with Germany. The premise of an advent calendar is that each day the child will open a door or a slot and reveal candy or a Bible story. This is often the first gift the child will receive. It was an inventive way to count down to Christmas as well as review the Old Testament. Advent will always start as the first Sunday after November 26th and this practice was also attributed to the Germans.

Some parents hang the Advent Calendar in the child room to help counter the commercialism of Christmas. Some advent rituals are done during dinner time like the lighting of the Advent wreath. And some are done at bedtime like the opening of the Advent calendar.

Looking at all of Germany and Advent, historically they not only invented the advent calendar but they made the best in the world. From the 1850s forward, they were well known for them. Nazi Germany, although early on used the advent calendar and even distributed it in the newspaper, did outlaw them causing them to die out and not reemerge until recently in their more commercial form.

Despite governmental restrictions, the advent wreath and the advent calendar will always be deeply rooted in Germany.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Advent Paves way to Christmas

Christmas is one of the the season of the the church that outshines all other shines the other seasons with its opulence and majesty. Gaining also with its materialism in the secular world it is hard to not lose site of its ultimate meaning. Enter Advent, the season the church sets aside to help prepare the way for Christ as well as not lose sight of him.

The earliest Advent celebrations can be linked to the the early church right after the 4th century. Advent was not designed originally to combat 20th century secularism and materialism. It was started to help prepare a way for Christ. Advent means 'coming' and is perfect because Christ is coming. It also is now the start of the Catholic Churchs calendar year which makes it perfected because it starts the upcoming year.

This also can be a period of self examination and penance and it has become one of the times of the year that forgiveness is front and center. Similar to what you would do when a house guest is coming, cleaning out the bad and preparing for them, this period functions the same way.

There is also the aide of the Advent wreath that symbolically reminds us of God's Endless Mercy as well as the light, reminding us of Christ's light. Through the centuries, people have decorated their advent wreath with ivy, that adds a reminder for our human spirit; cedar is sometimes used as the branches that make the wreath to remind us of our eternal life. and Holly, a common theme in a modern day advent wreath is there to remind us of the crown of thorns and what Christ would ultimately suffer for us. Bay is also used to remind us of Christ's triumph over sin.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The advent wreath has really evolved in this modern day. It went from a circle of evergreen to now some are made of pewter, resin and even sometimes silver or brass. Through it all the symbol of forever, and endless circle is still present in the modern advent wreath.

Additionally there are now sometimes as many as five candles mounted on the advent wreath. But as we start in darkness as each week progresses and we get closer to the birth of Christ the number of candles lit become more making it brighter and bringing us out of our darkness, making this one of symbolic seasons of the liturgical year.

For a homemade advent wreath the advent candles were wired in to the wreath so the can be lit nightly as part of the advent ceremony. In addition to making our path brighter the light from the candles are representative of Christ who is of course the light of the world. The origins of the advent wreath was a wheel of light that was in the pagan tradition and would help light the ultra long winter nights.

There are 3 different candle colors, pink, purple or white. The basic premise is there is purple for penance, the pink for the joy and white which is the Christ candle.
The first week, Purple, is about the Old Testament and its prophets, calling to mind that Isaiah foretold the coming of Christ.

The second week is also purple and is often called the Bethlehem candle and is about love and penance. The third candle is transitional and joyful and Pink and we start to look forward. And, the fourth candle is again purple but represents peace.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Advent keeps the focus on Christmas

Well Advent is right around the corner and that means so is Christmas but Advent is a great way to help families keep focused on Christmas and what the true meaning of the season is.

The advent wreath keeps the focus on the stories that helped lead up to the birth of Jesus. Starting in the 6th Century, Advent began being the season of preparation for Christmas. Although originally Advent was not about Christmas and staying focused, it has developed into a very structured recap of the old Testament. The round circle that is the advent wreath is a circle that represents Gods mercy and love.

The four advent candles represent and mark a week of the month that forms the Advent season. The simple act of lighting an advent wreath and its candles help family members refocus their attention to the story of Jesus and away from the commercial aspects that will be Christmas.

One last observance can be added to the family advent celebration. The setting up of a Nativity Set allows for the family to recall the events of Jesus' birth and the circumstances he was born into. It is again a great way to shift the focus back to Jesus.

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