Advent Wreath by flikr

What is Christian Advent? Advent, a word that translates to ‘coming’ in Latin, is a Christian countdown to the days until Christmas to symbolically honor the coming of Jesus Christ and his birth into the world. While the adults lead prayer, light candles, and arrange time with one another, the children stay on track with advent calendars.

When does it occur? The celebration of Advent spans the four Sundays leading up to the day before Christmas, beginning on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year. When a Christmas in on a Wednesday, however, the start of Advent is observed on December 1st. In the United States, Advent is still observed this way; however, in the UK it is more common to start observing the holiday on December 1st. Regardless of location, though, Advent always finishes on Christmas Eve.

When did it begin? According to, no one is quite sure when Advent was first celebrated, though research states that it began between the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul (present day France). Advent served as preparation for the feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation. It is represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1) and honored with the baptism of new Christians in January.

How is it observed?

Some of the most common ways to observe Advent include:

  1. An Advent wreath: May be crafted of pine, natural materials, either homemade or purchased, with candle holders anchored within the wreath.
  2. Four candles: Placed in the center of the wreath. Each candle is meant to symbolize each of the Sundays in Advent. The fifth candle in the center is traditionally lit on Christmas Day, representing Christ. 
  3. Prayer- Christian families use this time of year to pray together, generally before the evening meal, near the wreath when lighting the candles.
  4. What are Advent calendars? Often filled with chocolates, these are hung on the wall or given to young family members to help count down days until Christmas. Even though Advent calendars began as a Christian tradition, the secular community has adopted them as part of secular holiday celebrations and they are now sold with chocolates.

Do you celebrate Advent every year? What ways do you make the season special? Share your stories with us, we’d love to know!


Sharon Schweitzer and Hannah Alvarado co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.

Continuing her higher education at Texas State University, Hannah Alvarado is set receive her Bachelor’s Degree in English in 2019. She is a native Texan with a background in writing, sales, social media marketing and customer service. Hannah aspires to perfect her passion and craft of writing and hopes to one day become a novelist. With all the fantastic opportunities offered at Access to Culture, she is excited to be a new member of the team. Connect with her at Hannah Alvarado.