The Origin of Advent
Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches
in the Western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before
Christmas day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends
on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is
counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve
proper beginning at sundown.
Advent has probably been observed since the fourth century.
Originally, it was a time when converts to Christianity
readied themselves for baptism.
During the Middle Ages, Advent became associated with
preparation for the Second Coming. In early days Advent lasted
from November 11, the feast of St. Martin, until Christmas
Day. Advent was considered a pre-Christmas season of Lent when
Christians devoted themselves to prayer and fasting. The
Orthodox Eastern Church observes a similar Lenten season, from
November 15 until Christmas, rather than Advent.
Many Christians still view Advent as a season to prepare for
the Second Coming of Jesus. In the last fifty years, however,
it has also come to be thought of as a time of anticipating
the Nativity, on Christmas Day.