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The ADVENT Season


Advent is the liturgical season that precedes and prepares for Christmas. It is a
season of hope and of longing, of joyful expectation and of peaceful
preparation. Many symbols and traditions are associated with Advent,
especially the Advent Wreath with its four colored candles (three purple and
one pink), but also Advent calendars, special Advent music, food, processions,
and other traditions that may vary from one culture or region to the next. Here
are a few interesting things to know about Advent:

 When and how long is Advent?
o For most Christians, the Advent Season always begins four
Sundays before Christmas; so it is rarely four full weeks long, but
only between three and four weeks, depending on what weekday
Dec. 25 happens to be in a certain year. The First Sunday of
Advent, which also marks the beginning of the new liturgical year
for the Church, could be as early as Nov. 27 or as late as Dec. 3.
o The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called "Gaudete
Sunday" (from Latin, meaning "Rejoice!), because the "Entrance
Antiphon" of this Sunday's Mass is taken from Paul's letter to the
Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The
Lord is near." (Phil 4:4+5b)
o The Fourth Sunday of Advent could be as early as Dec. 18, a full
week before Christmas (as in 2005 and 2011), or as late as Dec.
24, making it the same day as "Christmas Eve" (as in 2006 or
o Advent technically ends of the afternoon of Dec. 24, since that
evening, Christmas Eve, begins the Christmas Season.
o Most Eastern Orthodox and other Eastern Christian Churches
have a "Nativity Fast" (now often called "Advent Fast"), which
usually lasts forty days before Christmas; it may begin on Nov. 15
(for those Churches that celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25), or in late
November (for those Churches that celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7
or 8).
 What does the word "Advent" mean?
o When capitalized, "Advent" usually refers to "the coming of Christ
into the world" or to "the liturgical period preceding Christmas"; it
may also refer to the "Second Coming" of Christ (the "Advent of our
o In secular English, "advent" (not capitalized) may refer to any
"coming" or "arrival," especially of something so important that it
radically changed a whole culture (e.g., "The advent of electricity"
or "The advent of the computer age").
o The word is derived from the Latin adventus ("arrival, approach"),
made up of the preposition ad- ("to, towards"), the verbal root ven-
(from venire, "to come"), and the suffix -tus (indicating verbal
o The word is very similar in many other European languages:
Advent, Advento, Avent, Avvento, Adviento, etc.
 What are the traditional colors of Advent?
o In the Roman Catholic Church, the official liturgical color for most
of the Season of Advent is violet. Only on the Third Sunday of
Advent is a rose (pink) colored candle lit, as a symbol of joy; the
priest may also wear rose vestments on this Sunday.

 What is an Advent Wreath? o Many churches and families prominently display an evergreen wreath with four candles throughout the Advent Season. and all four during the fourth week of Advent. symbolizing Hope. symbolizing the arrival of Christ. o Only one purple candle is lit during the first week. pink. 2-front. 4) The Angel's Candle. and then to continue clockwise around the wreath in the following weeks. 2-front left. especially at the time of the evening meal. although they may also use rose/pink on the Third Sunday. the gradually increasing light symbolizes the approach of Christmas. . it is best to start on the First Sunday of Advent lighting the purple candle located directly opposite the pink one. o Families can gather around the wreath daily for some brief Advent prayers and readings. and gold colors. lighting the appropriate number of candles for each week. o Other church decorations (altar cloths. 3) The Shepherd's Candle. and 4-back right. o In many churches.) will often have combinations of violet. holly. Click here for some Advent Family Prayers. the birth of Jesus. and will wait until the Christmas season to use decorations with white. o It is traditionally made of some type or mixture of evergreens (fir. banners. juniper. etc. or see the Blessing Rituals for Advent. o Some churches and families add a fifth candle (white) in the middle of the wreath for Christmas Eve or Day. and blue throughout the season. o Many Anglicans and some Protestant Churches use blue instead of violet throughout Advent. one could go in the following orders: 1-right. spruce. from the Shorter Book of Blessings. a large wreath is ritually blessed at the beginning of the first liturgy on the First Sunday of Advent. which are arranged evenly around the wreath. Liturgically-minded churches will avoid greens and reds (the secular Christmas colors).). others continue using the same wreath throughout the Christmas Season. silver. etc. symbolizing Peace. o Since the rose candle is not lit until the Third Sunday of Advent. symbolizing Faith. two in the second week. which they themselves can bless (click here for some Advent Wreath Blessings). 2) The Bethlehem Candle. the light of the world. at least). Thus. 3-back left (rose). Families can also use a smaller Advent wreath in their homes. o Some traditions assign specific symbolism to each of the candles: 1) The Prophet's Candle. o Advent wreaths traditionally include three purple/violet candles and one pink/rose-colored candle. three (incl. 4- back. or 1-front right. replacing the colored Advent candles with fresh candles that are white or gold. the light of the world. symbolizing Joy. 3-left (rose). symbolizing the continuation of life in the middle of the cold and dark winter (in the northerly latitudes. the pink one) in the third week. although some people use four violet or four white candles.

30 . Andrew. Dec. but most of them are omitted if the usual date happens to fall on a Sunday in a particular year. 24: the Gospel readings cover all of Matthew 1 and Luke 1. 12 .although the day is only an "optional memorial" on the Roman liturgical calendar. o Fourth Sunday of Advent . o The weekdays from Dec.Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary .  What are the liturgical readings for the Sundays of Advent? Each of the four Sundays of Advent has its own special readings and characteristics: o First Sunday of Advent . this Solemnity is transferred to Monday. . o Dec. Nicholas . 17 to Dec. o Click here for an explanation of the History of the Advent Wreath. William Saunders. the first readings are selected thematically from various prophetic books of the Old Testament. the Gospel is an excerpt from the Apocalyptic Discourse of Jesus in one of the Synoptic Gospels. while the first and second readings convey the joy that Christians feel with the increasing closeness of the incarnation and the world's salvation. the Apostle . including the dreams and visions of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth.may occur just before or during the first week of Advent.The readings look forward to the "End Times" and the coming of the "Day of the Lord" or the "Messianic Age".a "Holy Day of Obligation" in the United States. 16: the Gospel readings are excerpts from various chapters in Matthew and Luke. Dec. but considered an important "Feast" in the United States and many Latino countries.The Gospels tell of the events that immediately preceded the birth of Jesus. 17 to Dec. depending on the year. 6 is still a day when parents give simple gifts (often fruit or nuts) to their children. 24 also make use of the "O Antiphons. 8 .Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe .  What other liturgical celebrations can occur during the Season of Advent? Several "Feasts" and "Memorials" of saints can be celebrated on the weekends of Advent. o Second Sunday of Advent . Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for the full texts of these liturgical readings. sequentially. (click here for details) o Nov. the one who came to "Prepare the Way of the Lord.St." not only during Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. o Dec.Feast of St. o See the website of the U. but also in the Alleluia verse before the Gospel at Mass. 8 falls on a Sunday." o Third Sunday of Advent . the first readings are mostly from the book of the prophet Isaiah.only ranked as a "Memorial" in much of the world.  What are the liturgical readings for the Weekdays of Advent? There are actually two sets of weekday readings for the Advent season: o Readings for the weekdays in the first three weeks. if Dec. in certain countries. 9. 6 .The Gospel readings continue to focus on John the Baptist.S. o Dec. o Readings for the weekdays from Dec. by Fr. but only up to Dec. this popular saint gave rise to the gift-giving tradition now associated with "Santa Claus". since these celebrations are considered less important than the Sundays of Advent.The Gospel readings focus on the preaching and ministry of John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus.

Damasus I. John of Kanty). Ridge) Baptist's Cry  Emmanuel (Steve Angrisano)  People. Traditional Hymns and Chants Contemporary Songs and Albums  Alma Redemptoris Mater  A Voice Cries Out (Michael Joncas)  Awake. thematically appropriate music for Advent.Part (Janet Sullivan Whitaker) . Westphal) Longer  Maranatha! Come. Emmanuel Schutte)  On Jordan's Bank the  Come. Lucy (Dec. and Sleep No  Maranatha (G. 7). St. the Time  Every Valley Shall Be Exalted (Bob Is Near Dufford. Roberts)  The People Who Walked in  Maranatha (Gerard Chiusano) Darkness  Maranatha (Tim Schoenbachler)  Wake. 13). there is much good. SJ)  Prepare Ye the Way of the  God Comes Tomorrow (John Bell) Lord  Lectionary Psalms for  Rorate Caeli Advent/Christmas (C. Advent Music: In addition to the countless songs. St. Lord Jesus (M. Comfort. Thou Long Expected O'Brien) Jesus  Advent Suite (John Michael Talbot)  Comfort. 3). Nicholas. Handel's Messiah . O Come. and St. Lord Jesus  here to learn why). Juan Diego. Ambrose (Dec. but only if they fall on a weekday. and Greet the  Advent Gathering (Gary Daigle) New Morn  Advent Gathering Rite (Francis  Come.  The Angel Gabriel from SJ) Heaven Came  Lord Emmanuel. St. not just "O Come. D. and hymns for Christmas. and a few other "optional memorials" (St. o The "Memorials" of several other saints can be celebrated during Advent. Francis Xavier (Dec. O My  Advent/Christmas Gospel People Acclamation (David Haas)  Creator of the Stars of Night  Adviento (Jaime Cortez)  Hail to the Lord's Anointed  Alleluia! Hurry. St. How a Rose E'er Blooming Alonso / Gabe Huck)  O Come. St. the Lord is Near  Let All Mortal Flesh Keep (Ernest Sands) Silence  Beyond the Moon and Stars (Dan  Lift Up Your Heads. Ye Schutte) Mighty Gates  By Heart: Seasonal Songs (Tony  Lo. Divine Messiah  Christ. O Come. Come (Peter  The Coming of Our God McGrail)  The King Shall Come When  Lord. F. Make Us Turn to You (Leon Morning Dawns C. Circle Round Us (Dan  O Come. Peter Canisius. St. St. 14). not on Sunday: St. Kelly)  Savior of the Nations Come  Let the King of Glory Come (Michael  See How the Virgin Waits Joncas)  Soon and Very Soon  Let the Valleys Be Raised (Dan  The Advent of Our God Schutte)  The Advent of Our King  Like Winter Waiting (John Foley. John of the Cross (Dec. O Wake. Awake. Emmanuel" (which really ought to be saved for the last eight days of Advent . Look East. carols. John of Damascus.

but now seems to begin just after Halloween (Oct. the Christmas Season might end on Jan. and Christmas decorations are often removed before New Year's Day! The "Christmas Season" (for or Oremus. lasting anywhere from 12 days to 40 days in different ecclesial traditions. after sunset) and Christmas Day (Dec. 25 to Jan. special music and activities. 6 (the traditional date of the Feast of the Epiphany). etc. For Christians. technically includes both Christmas Eve (Dec. which vary significantly among different countries and cultures. liturgically called "The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord" in the Catholic Church. 31). if not before! When people hear about the "Twelve Days of Christmas" (or sing the song by that title). 25) itself. o In most Christian traditions. decorating. a little over 2000 years ago. 24). 26 already begins the "after- Christmas" sales. however.) used to begin just after Thanksgiving Day (in the United States). but an extended liturgical season of joy and celebration. People (John Foley. Be Ready (Christopher Full Albums of Advent Music Walker)  Emmanuel (Sparrow Music)  The Advent of Our God (James  Gentle Night (St. Louis Hansen) Jesuits)  The Whole World Is Waiting for  Night of Silence (Marty Love (Marianne Misetich) Haugen)  Tryin' to Get Ready (Janèt Sullivan  The New Young Messiah Whitaker) (Sparrow Music)  Vigil: Christmas (Tom Conry)  The Promise (Michael Card)  Wait for the Lord (Taizé)  Advent Carols (St. but an entire season. I  Patience. o In the modern secular world. Hurd) from Hymnsite. it is not just a single day (Dec. the "Christmas Season" properly begins with Christmas Eve (after sunset on Dec. For religiously observant Christians. Christmas is not just one day. Dec. or might last until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (usually the Sunday after . parties. while the "Twelve Days of Christmas" refers to the period from Dec. music. o In different  Ready the Way (Curtis Stephan)  Stay Awake. involving many different symbols and traditions. 25). John's  Waiting in Silence (Carey Landry) College)  We Shall Prepare (Mark Friedman / Janet Vogt) The CHRISTMAS Season: Christmas is the annual feast commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. however. SJ)  Prince of Peace (Dan Schutte) Click the above titles for lyrics  Ready the Way of the Lord (Bob and/or tunes. 24. they might think it refers to the last 12 shopping days before Christmas. 5. Here are a few interesting things to know about Christmas:  When and how long is Christmas? o Christmas Day.

or might even last all the way to Feb. or other shiny metallic colors (stars? bells? musical instruments?). o The fact that we don't know the exact historical day or date of Jesus' birth should not bother anyone. o However. or to the mid-winter legal holiday (in the Northern hemisphere. homes. in addition to the use of white (snow?) and silver. French Noël (all ultimately derived from Latin natalis. or martyrs. or public places. many people set up a "manger scene" in their churches. 40 days after Dec. gold. or to the season (Christmastide or Christmastime) which begins on that day (or the night before). or a mid-summer holiday below the Equator) observed on that day. an office or community might have a combined monthly birthday party. the day on which they celebrate it may be different for various reasons: a family might gather on a nearby weekend rather than on a weekday. not green and red. o In the modern secular world. or a school might have a party in the Spring or Fall for all children whose birthdays actually occur during the summer vacation months). Dec. 25? o Probably not! We simply do not and cannot know the exact day on which Jesus was actually born. o Popular culture often associates Christmas with a combination of greens and reds (such as in Poinsettia plants). when most of the Roman Empire adopted the Christian religion. they must choose a date randomly. o Even when someone's birth date is known. or mean that Dec. Jesus' birth has been celebrated on Dec. the Apostles. When such people move to another culture that places greater importance on the date of people's births. Epiphany). green is the proper liturgical color for "Ordinary Time. o Etymologically. 25 since the early fourth century. 25.  What does the word "Christmas" mean? o "Christmas" properly refers to the day when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Was Jesus really born on Dec. Joseph. Spanish Navidad. the word derives from Old English "Cristes mæsse" (lit. 25 is somehow "wrong." while red is used on feasts of the Holy Spirit. Italian Natale." In some countries and cultures. 25 on most calendars. . Christ's festival). even in today's world.  What is a Crèche and where does this tradition come from? o In the weeks before or during the Christmas season. Scandinavian jul (similar to English yule). depicting the baby Jesus surrounded by Mary. the exact day or date of a baby's birth is not remembered or celebrated. 25). o By contrast. It replaced the mid-winter Roman festival of "the birth of the sun god" (sol invictus). but is significantly different in derivation and meaning in many other European languages: German Weihnachten ("Blessed Night"). celebrated just after the winter solstice. 2 (the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. "birth"). It is similar to Dutch Kerstmis. as many people assume. "Christmas" may also refer non- religiously to Dec.  What are the liturgical colors for Christmas? o The official liturgical color of the Christmas Season for most Churches is white or gold.

because there was no room for them in the inn. 7 or 8. the first Christian martyr  Dec. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. some closely related to the biblical accounts of Jesus' birth. 6. and possibly also the magi or "wise men. even including some martyrs! o Some of these are celebrated on fixed dates on the calendar." (Luke 2:6-7) o The tradition of displaying a crèche did not arise until the mid- 12th century. who wanted to emphasize the poor and humble circumstances in which Jesus was born. 6. Apostle and Evangelist  Dec. Some people set up a simple crèche long before Christmas. Mary. 1 . others are always on Sundays. with the baby Jesus not placed in the manger until Christmas Eve. the time came for her [Mary] to have her child. 1 . martyrs  Sunday after Dec. 28 . such as the USA.The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus. 8 or 9. and thus have moveable dates. if Epiphany is celebrated on Sunday Jan. it is now transferred to the first Sunday after New Year's Day)  Sunday after Jan.The Feast of the Holy Innocents. 26 ." o The Gospel of Luke says. angels and shepherds. "While they were there [in Bethlehem]. see Blessing Rituals for Advent or Advent Blessings & Prayers. add more figures as Christmas approaches.The Feast of St. the Octave Day of Christmas. Stephen. and the wise men not arriving until Jan.The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (transferred to Monday. others commemorating seemingly unrelated saints. but also came to be used for an "infant's bed.The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 1)  Jan. o The use and design of crèches reflects a wide variety of artistic and cultural traditions. 25 . For online samples. Mother of God (always on New Year's Day. John. 27 .  What other liturgical celebrations usually occur during the Season of Christmas? o A variety of other feasts and memorials are celebrated during the Christmas Season. o A church's or family's crèche is usually blessed on Christmas Eve with a simple blessing prayer. Francis of Assisi. 30 if the Sunday is Jan. and she gave birth to her firstborn son. but are omitted in years when their dates fall on a Sunday or on one of the moveable "solemnities" or "feasts" listed above: ." o The French word crèche is similar to German Krippe and English "crib". Jan. o Less important "Memorials" or "Optional Memorials" of certain saints may also be celebrated. sheep and other animals. 6 . which takes precedence over the Feast of the Holy Family)  Jan. these words correspond to Latin praesēpe or Greek phatne (Luke 2:12).The Feast of St. respectively. while the word "manger" comes from the French mangeoire (derived from mangier = "to eat"). but in some countries. all of which originally referred to a "feeding trough" for animals.The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (traditionally Jan. See my chart of Moveable Feasts during the Christmas Season for more details on the following:  Dec. it is attributed to St. 6 or the Sunday after Jan. in certain years. and Joseph (transferred to Dec.

Related Resources on This Website:  The Liturgical Calendar. Jan. the first reading is taken from the First Letter of John. and Luke 3. 6 (in USA) . Elizabeth Ann Seton. 29 . Mass at Midnight.  For most weekdays during the Christmas season. Jan. from 1969 to 2050  How Long Is the Advent Season?  Readings for the Sundays of Advent  Readings for the Weekdays of Advent  The "O Antiphons" for the Week before Christmas  Readings for the Sundays and Major Feasts of the Christmas Season . the Gospel readings for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  For example.  The Gospel readings for the first three Masses contain excerpts from the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus (from Matthew and Luke). Sylvester I. respectively.Bl. and C. bishop.St.  Liturgical readings for the Weekdays during the Christmas Season. John Neumann. Mass at Dawn.Holy Name of Jesus. Jan. religious. Jan.St. and the Gospel Acclamations are chosen thematically. the biblical account of the visit of the Magi from the East. see the following pages of this website:  Liturgical readings for the Sundays and Major Feasts during the Christmas Season. 2 . o The readings for the other major feasts of the Christmas Season include the biblical accounts of the various events being commemorated. B. Dec. priest  What are the liturgical readings for the Christmas Season? o Christmas itself is the only day on the liturgical calendar which has four different sets of biblical readings for the four different Masses that can be celebrated at various times: Vigil Mass (Christmas Eve). Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen. the Gospel reading for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is always Matthew 2:1-12.St. Similarly. while the Gospel reading for the Mass of Christmas Day is the Prologue of John's Gospel (John 1:1-18). 7 . bishops and doctors of the Church. religious. which concludes the Christmas season. are the accounts of the Baptism of Jesus as found in Matthew 3. pope. 5 (in USA) . for Years A. Jan.Sts. André Bessette. Jan. Thomas Becket.  Dec. the Second Readings.  The first readings are various selections from the book of the prophet Isaiah. while the Responsorial Psalms. 3 . Raymond of Peñafort. bishop and martyr. and Mass during the Day. o For detailed charts listing all the readings for particular days. 31 - St.St. Mark 1. 4 (in USA) .  The first and second readings for all feast days are chosen thematically from a variety of Old Testament books and New Testament letters.  Liturgical readings for the Commemorations of the Saints (see late December and early January).

by various authors. from Paulist Press  Advent. also other resources from Pax Christi USA  Waiting in Joyful Hope: Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas 2016-2017. también en Español: La palabra entre nosotros  Sacred Space for Advent and Christmas .k. from Twenty-Third Publications. CT  Give Us This Day .by Dietrich Bonhoeffer .and many other Advent/Christmas resources from Ligouri Publications  Fathoming Bethlehem: Advent Meditations .Advent-Christmas issue of the monthly publication. Brown  Every Day of Advent and Christmas . M.December 2016 issue of The Word Among Us. Morneau. Nouwen . 2 ". Christmas.S. children. by Megan McKenna. and other resources from Paulist Press  The Birth of the Messiah .a. and Epiphany: Stories and Reflections on the Sunday Readings .by Jeanne Stephen J. Morneau. and many other resources in English or Spanish from Liturgy Training Publications (LTP)  Biblical Meditations for Advent and the Christmas Season . by the Jesuit Communication Centre.a.P.on the Daily Readings". Binz. during Christmas Season)  The Birth of Jesus: Comparing the Gospel Infancy Narratives  The Infancy Narratives in Luke's Gospel  The Proclamation of the Birth of Christ . Ireland  The Magnificat Advent Companion 2016 . Crossroad Publishing  God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas .by Julie Walters.from the publishers of Magnificat  Journey Towards Justice: Reflections for Advent 2016 . School and Church . New City Press  Advent Light .by Thomas O'Gorman. part of the "Threshold Bible Study" series  Advent of the Savior: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives of Jesus .by Stephen J.from the Sacred Space website. from The Liturgical Press  Advent 2016 Issue (coming soon) . the Christmas Proclamation. C.a very extensive scholarly Carroll Stuhlmueller. used at Masses on Christmas Eve Annual Publications for Advent and Christmas:  Advent and Christmas Resources . by Raymond E.explanations and resources from the website of the U. Binz.various booklets for adults. youth. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)  Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J. Robert F.  Readings for the Weekdays of the Christmas Season  Moveable Feasts during the Christmas Season  Readings from the Letters of John (esp. Christmas Sourcebook - by Mary Ann Simcoe. New London..vol.from Ligouri Publications  Advent: A Family Celebration .. Word Among Us Press  Advent Arts and Christmas Crafts: With Prayers and Rituals for Family. The Liturgical Press  Advent Sourcebook . and many other Advent/Christmas resources from The Liturgical Press Other Recommended Publications for Advent and Christmas:  Advent and Christmas Seasons .. by Bishop Robert F.

from GIA  Living Faith: Daily Catholic Devotions . Light in the Darkness: Music and Meditation .various online planning tools.and other online "Advent Resources".by Paul Tate & Deanna Light. from Franciscan Media (formerly St. and many other Advent/Christmas resources from All Saints Press  Advent Books . from Matthew Kelly and Dynamic Catholic  Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers . etc. World Library Publications  Liturgy Planning Resources .  Online Resources for the Advent Season and Online Resources for the Christmas Season .anthology of great spiritual writers. 2007). a Manger Scene. from Loyola Press  Advent Meditations . ed.from Christmas in Cyberspace: A Christian Perspective  Best Advent Ever .quarterly publication. The Liturgical Press  Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr: Daily Reflections for and emailed daily reflections. Mary's Press  Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas . Orbis Books  Welcoming Jesus . Kelly. a Christmas Tree.Advent Reflections by Pope Francis & Henri Nouwen. también en Español: La Fe Viva  The Origins of Christmas .by Joseph F.from The Text This Week . rev. contains blessings for an Advent Wreath. and other youth-oriented resources from St.from the USCCB "Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy" (1988. Anthony Messenger Press)  Waiting in Hope: Praying and Living Advent .by Tony Alonso.