I was surprised to realize this weekend past that the Advent season is officially begun–I thought it would start next weekend, but my calendar is obviously off. 😉

As a child, I knew that advent marked the season leading up to Christmas…but it wasn’t until later that I realized advent actually meant “the approach, arrival, or coming.” But once I learned that bit of information, I naturally assumed that the word had always meant “the approach, arrival, or coming,” and hence was applied to the Christmas season as it counted down to the arrival on earth of our Savior.

As it happens…not exactly.

It wasn’t until 1757 that advent took on that general meaning–then that people may have begun saying things like “the advent of summer” or the like. Until then, the word meant only the Christmas season.

Advent was present in Old English as such, taken from the Latin adventus (which does indeed mean “coming, arrival” etc.), but in Church Latin (what would have been used in English-speaking realms at the time) it was used only for the season leading up to Christmas.

As for the Advent wreath many churches and families keep today–the tradition was begun by a German pastor and missionary, Johann Hinrich Wichern, in 1839 (though there were a few earlier versions that didn’t catch on dating back to the Lutherans of the 16th century). The original version counted down the whole month for the children of the mission school where he served, with 20 red candles and 4 large white ones.

The purple and rose candles most churches use today were made to match the liturgical colors in the Catholic church for those Sundays in December.

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