advent symbol


The Meaning of Advent, Its Symbols, and Celebrations

Advent is one of the seasons in the liturgical year. It's a Christian holiday celebrated all over the world by most Christians and numerous non-Christians as well.

Advent time is a time of anticipation of Jesus Christ's (re-)birth which falls on the night of the 24th of December and 25th of December. The season of Advent officially starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This means it can fall anywhere between 27th of November and 3rd of December, so Advent time can last from 21 to 27 days, but for practical reasons majority of people celebrate it from 1st of December to 24th of December ending it with Christmas as the major holiday.

What is the Meaning of Advent?

The word advent comes from the Latin adventus (arrival or coming), meaning we anticipate the birth of Jesus Christ, or if we dig a bit deeper into the pagan origins, the birth of the Sun. As we know the Sun in the Western hemisphere is the weakest at the end of December (namely the 21st of December) when the days are shortest.

shooting star

Short days mean low light and heat which causes cold and dark times which were very scary for people, and directly dependent on natural cycles. Such times were calling for some optimism, hope for the return of the Sun, the return of light, warmth, new life on Earth, and expectations of better times.

Such feelings are still present in the Christian religion where candles symbolize all that by their colors and light. Traditional Christmas wreath is another symbol of natural cycles, with a round shape and made of evergreen plants suggesting the eternal life cycle. The same is true for the Jesse tree, named after Jesse, King David's father, a direct descendant of Adam and Abraham, who is also the earthly father of Jesus.

In more generic cases the word advent can be used as the beginning of an event, somebody's arrival, or the invention of something important.

shephards see sign richard andre

Let's not forget another Christian belief - one day Christ will return to Earth, which means in Advent time we are also anticipating and preparing for his second coming.

The Symbolism of Advent Colors

Each Advent Sunday is marked by a color with its own symbolism which can vary a bit. In some cases three purple and one pink candle are used, in others, a white candle is used as well.

The first purple candle is called the Prophet's Candle and represents hope, the second is the Bethlehem Candle symbolizing love or faith, and the third is the Shephards' Candle. It means joy, and the last is the Angel's Candle for peace. We often say Christmas time is the time of peace.

In other variations, the candles represent related feelings. The first is for expectation, the second for hope, the third for joy, and the fourth for purity. We often say about children, especially newborns, that they are pure, without sin, just like every new life is pure.

advent candles

Similarly, all Advent Sundays are themed, which expands through the whole week up to the next Sunday. Let's see how Methodist Church explains it:

  • The first theme is sometimes called God's people and it starts with the ignition of The Candle of Hope. In a dark place, a shining light brings hope.
  • The second theme is Love, it starts with The Candle of Love and represents John the Baptist. As the first one, this candle is also violet.
  • The third candle is pink and is called The Candle of Joy. It represents the mother of Jesus - Mary. The theme of this week is called Mary the Mother of Jesus.
  • The fourth candle is in this case also violet. It represents the Prophets of the Old Testament. It's The Candle of Piece.
  • There is also a fifth candle, placed in the center of the wreath and lit on Christmas Eve. It's white and is called The Christ Candle. Some Christians use five candles, but most use only the first four.
  • As we can see, there is no unified symbolism, which reflects differences between individual parts of the Christian Church.

How We Celebrate Advent?

Traditional celebrating of Advent consists of fasting (for some all days in December till Christmas), praying, and repentance. This should be time for spirituality, meditation, thankfulness, and prayer.

Advent is also a time for different memorials and feasts, often intertwined with different holy days.

A more intimate tradition is the decoration of the Christmas tree. Some put it and decorate it on the first day of Advent, some do it only on Christmas Eve, yet most choose to decorate a tree about a week or two before Christmas and typically remove it a week after the New Year (when Epiphany is celebrated).

advent traditions

No matter how anybody decides to celebrate this holiday, Christmas is widely recognized as a family holiday when family members are gathered together even if they live in different parts of town, state, or the world. It's also time to meet old friends and make good deeds.

Especially among children advent calendars are very popular. Each day of advent can be marked as a chance for an activity, a charitable event, or an attempt to spread goodwill around. Advent calendars come in countless variations, sometimes as coloring sheets, boxes of candies, or collections of plastic toys.

If you want to present your loved ones with a gift of anticipation, we prepared numerous printable Advent Calendars with different themes, for more active or more passive kids.

While older ones can also enjoy these printable calendars, the market offers many more variations: from beer or whiskey lovers to music or yoga fans, from tea drinkers or makeup users to Sesame Street nostalgics or cheese foodies.

Hey, there are also Advent calendars designed as garlands with 24 sacks, made of burlap, where you can put a joke, a quote, or a small gift of your choice into each one of them.

advent calendar eco friendly

And there are, of course, nativity scenes, depictiong the birth of Jesus, sometimes with real actors, but mostly static ones, with figures representing the major characters and symbols connected with arrival of Jesus among shephards and sheeps.

Advent Celebrations Around the World

In Europe wreaths and candles are an obvious choice, but the number of candles and their color may vary. Even the time of Advent can vary because due to different calendar the Orthodox Church celebrate Christmas only on the 7th of January, but some start the Advent season on the 15th of November, which means the Advent time, in this case, lasts the whole 40 days! Gathering near Churches and singing Christmas carols is part of the tradition in numerous parts of Europe as well.

advent wreath

An interesting celebration of Advent in England is Christingles. The word can be used for an item (an orange decorated with red tape, a candle, and sweets) or the service which typically includes readings, singing, and prayers.

In Australia Advent is specific due to summer time in the Southern hemisphere. Children have their summer holidays during December and many native plants are used as decoration, typically outdoors, often with lovely blooms and, with some luck, visited by colorful birds. Of course, reindeer are not Australian first choice - they of course prefer kangaroos!

Let's not forget millions of Christians in Asia, where Advent is typically celebrated by decorating homes with red paper lanterns and giving apples, often wrapped in colored paper.

Mexico, on the other hand, celebrates only nine days before Christmas (from 16th of December to 24th of December). This time is called Las Posadas (The Inns) and is dedicated to the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. An important part of the celebration which is also popular in some southern parts of the USA is the precessions of children, led by a child dressed as an angel. A procession stops at some homes, where they got refreshments and small gifts.

mary jesus and angels arthur rackham

Christians in Africa spend good parts of the Advent season in their churches, often including singing, dancing, and enjoying good meals. While you can find Santa in Ethiopia using a camel instead of a sleigh, Liberia doesn't recognize Santa Claus at all. Instead, there is a devilish character called Old Man Bayka, who is wandering around the streets begging for gifts.

We hope you enjoyed and got at least one good idea from our article about Advent, its meaning, symbolism, and celebrations.

advent calendar printable icon mycalendaland com


Printable Advent Calendars

 

Are you looking for a free printable advent calendar? We got it! We actually have a whole range of advent calendars with different themes, all ready to print, completely free for personal use, and ready for your enjoyment.

This page will be growing in the next months, so make sure to bookmark it and come back from time to time, because there will be more advent calendars to print. Way more!

 

Classic Advent Printables

 

While Advent time can last from the first Advent Sunday, which may fall from November 27 to December 3 to December 24, most printable (and other) calendars simply start on the 1st of December and end on Christmas Eve (24 Days) or in fewer cases on Christmas (25 Days).

So let us start with 24 days too:

advent calendar printable

free printable advent calendar

As you can see, we prepared two variations of Advent calendars with typical Advent/Christmas themes, one in a landscape, and the other in portrait format, both cute and ready to entertain your kids with a wonderful gift of anticipation.

coloring advent calendar

 

free printable advent calendar to color

The Advent calendars above are black and white which is suitable for more DIY-oriented kids, who love to color. They may color one day at a time, gradually approaching the big day, or color all of them at once. Hey, they may even color several calendars, in vertical and horizontal positions, and give them to their friends and relatives to spread some Christmas magic around!

 

Most Popular Advent Calendars to Print

 

The next set of calendars for the countdown to Christmas is simple and cute - with a sleepy bear and a Christmas tree, or with snowmen, all with numbers, where kids can check on the number per day as Christmas Day is coming closer and closer and learn some basic math on the way as well:

printable advent calendar

 

If you have a printer able to print these calendars on the thicker paper, these calendars can be used as small, yet thoughtful gifts for your kids' kindergarten buddies.

printable advent calendar free

 

As you noticed, the last Advent calendar (the one with 24 snowmen in different positions) comes with a nice black and white frame, which is lovely as it is. Still, it may be also colored, if your kid (or anybody else, creativity is not just for kids, of course) wants to add a personal touch.

For this reason, we added a few black and white Advent Calendars with numbers in silhouettes, with plenty of creative possibilities.

Black and White Advent Calendars

Angel is a classic character in times of Advent, so we prepared an original calendar with silhouettes of angels with a vintage background as a challenge to creative persons who wants to add some additional drawings and colors, but you may use it as it already is.

printable advent calendar with angels

free advent calendar to print and color

The second calendar is a bit more modern, with silhouettes of Christmas ornaments of different shapes, ready to be colored with your favorite Christmas colors to shine in new life!

santa beard advent calendar printable

Santa beard advent calendar in printable version is a Christmas classic. Who could resist to color the numbers inside Santa's beard? So we made a printable Santa beard calendar with a lot of possibilities to personalize it to your (or your kids') taste. It's also a chance to learn the numbers or even try at some basic math skills.

printable santa advent calendar

This printable Santa Advent calendar is a bit naughty. Santa is obviously not in best condition. Is he tired of non-stop delivering the gifts? Did he made a miste in address or maybe forgot what day it is? It would be pretty weird if he forgot to bring the presents on the right day to the right addresee. Did you notice? Even the stars are not in best shape ...

christmas advent calendar printable

Speaking of presents, we also made a printable Christmas Advent calendar with 24 colorful gifts. They really look nice, arent they? Each day of Advent time is an opportunity to gift somebody, not necessarily always the same person and definitely not necessarily with something material. We can tell an amusing story, perform a good deed, or whatever out imagination offers. There's also a lovely chance to learn something new about numbers or colors.

Advent Calendar Template

Sometimes it's best to do things by oneself. An Advent calendar may fall in this category, too. So here are just four simple templates in six times four and four times six formats, which you may print as they are and fill with drawings, stickers or whatever you might find interesting for your project.

advent calendar template color vertical

advent calendar template color horizontalBoth formats (landscape and portrait) are available in black and white and color versions, just to give you a pinch of the initial inspiration.

advent calendar template black white vertical

advent calendar template blac white horizontal

DIY Advent Calendars

One of the main points of Advent time is ability to create something together with your family. Here is a lovely vintage project for you. Josef Wenig, Czech artist who died in 1939. One of his numerous projects was an advent calendar with nativity scene. Below you'll find four color sheets which can be printed on preferably a bit thicker paper. The elements in pages should be cut out (see the folding lines at the bottom of each element) and used to compose a well-known scene of Jesus' birth.

diy nativity advent calendar josef wenig 1 of 4

diy nativity advent calendar josef wenig 2 of 4

diy nativity advent calendar josef wenig 3 of 4

diy nativity advent calendar josef wenig 4 of 4

Cute, right? Hours of fun guaranteed!

 

You can, of course, also visit our page, dedicated to free monthly blank calendars.

That's all for now, but expect more in the foreseeable future. Tell your friends about this page, and have a Merry Christmas!

Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving - the Oldest Continuing Thanksgiving Celebration

Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving is a holiday related to Thanksgiving, one of the most popular holidays in the USA. They share many similarities yet Schwenkfelder's Thanksgiving remains almost unknown to people outside of Schwenkfelder Church and the community in Pennsylvania. We intend to inform a bit about this interesting celebration in the article below.

Who is (was) Schwenkfelder?

Schwenkfelder is Schwenkfeld, actually Kaspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig (sometimes written as Caspar and Schwenckfeld). Kaspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig was one of the first Protestant reformers who lived between 1490 and 1561. Born in the area of today's Poland he was of noble origin.

kaspar schwenkfeld by theodor de beymartin luther by lucas cranach the elder

Kaspar Schwenkfeld (left) and Martin Luther (right) were enemies for most of their lives

Schwenkfeld studied in Cologne and Frankfurt before becoming an adviser in the Duchy of Liegnitz. When he was around 30 years old he turned to Protestantism, inspired by Martin Luther. He established a Brotherhood of followers and managed to turn Duke Friedrich II over Protestantism yet only a few years later broke from Luther while he interpreted sacraments and the character of Jesus Christ differently.

The most important points of Schwenkfeld's teachings were in opposition to war and infant baptism which led him and his followers to many troubles with the major religion and civil authorities. Subsequently, a number of his followers (Schwenkfeld never officially organized his Church which was in tune with his policy of toleration) were forced to leave their homes or convert.

While staying in relative obscurity Schwenkfelder's work importantly influenced Anabaptism, Pietism, and Puritanism.

Origin of Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving

Due to pressures on Schwenkfelders as the followers of Schwenkfelder's teachings were called several groups landed near Philadelphia between 1730 and 1735. They settled there and their religion was an important part of the success of their community in the rough times of today's Pennsylvania, which was then called the Thirteen Colonies of Great Britain.

It s believed it was the second group of settlers from Germany who arrived in America on September 22, 1734 and decided to express their gratitude to God by thanksgiving service. It was September 24, two days after arrival and their oath to the British king, when the first Thanksgiving for Schwenkfelders was organized. Since then every year, on the Sunday closest to 24 September the Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving is thrown which makes it the officially oldest Thanksgiving celebration in the world.

bread and butter

While this tradition remains pretty localized to the several thousand members of Schwenkfelder Church (established only in the 20th century - in 1909, officially called as Confessors of the Glory of Christ) still living in the area of wider Philadelphia, it's still an important part of world cultural and religious heritage.

What was served on Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving?

There were no crops when Schwenkfelders arrived, so their meal was very modest, consisting of bread, butter, and water. The only 'luxurious' addition was apple butter, a spread made of butter, apples, vinegar (sometimes substituted with lemon juice), sugar, and some spices (especially cinnamon and vanilla).

water pitcher
Apple butter is not a spread only as it can be used as an addition to improve the taste of different sweet and savory sauces. It goes well with a wide variety of foods from burgers to pies.
Here is an example recipe (please note, there is virtually no way to restore the original taste from the 1730s because the taste of today's apples is way sweeter than then) in 'slow' and 'fast' versions:

Slow:

slow version of apple butter make

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pju0OACe0FI

Fast

fast version of apple butter making

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ5Xsderi_w

Similarities and differences between Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving

  • both holidays are established as an expression of gratitude for survival in extreme living conditions in times when people massively perished of hunger, weather conditions, and diseases that are simply curable today,
  • while Thanksgiving in Plymouth, organized by Pilgrims, was first held in 1621, more than a century before Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving, the latter continued to be celebrated every year at the same time (Sunday closest to the 24 September), while the now more known Thanksgiving officially fixed the date of celebration (fourth Thursday in November) only in 1939,
  • food served on Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving is way more modest and it stayed like that until today while the original Thanksgiving food by Pilgrims was more abundant from the very beginning and differentiated a lot since the 17th century (for instance, there was no turkey in the original Thanksgiving dinner but there was probably different kind of venison),
  • Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving stayed closely connected with religious services from the very beginning, while Thanksgiving became much more of a family reunion with a lot of traveling and overeating.

schwenckfelder thanksgiving decor

How to observe Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving

If you would like to expand your intellectual and cultural horizons, you can:

  • attend a service in the church (preferably one of Schwenkfelder's),
  • host a meal based on original food served on Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving (a great excuse to learn how to make apple butter and find out about its uses),
  • learn about Schwenkfelder Church teachings and different religions generally by visiting a local library or browsing the web (go ahead, get your free printable copy of multi faith religious calendar for september and mark September 24th).

Lammas, Lughnasadh or Lughnasa - Is there Any Difference?

 

Lammas is one of the eight major Wiccan holidays (sabbaths), the first of the three autumn harvest festivals, and one of the so-called quarter days. It's definitely th emost important holiday in August calendar for pagans. Many people know it in its Christian version as the Loaf Mass Day, obviously transformed from ancient pagan traditions related to life cycles, namely the crop and harvesting.

major wiccan holidays

Origin of name

There are numerous theories about the origin of the name Lammas and its variations.

Lughnasa or Lunasa is Irish Gaelic meaning for 'nasad of Lugh' (assembly, games, gatherings of Lugh). Lugh is an old Celtic deity, a craftsman god in several ways related to Greek Hermes or Roman Mercury. Lunasa (Lunasdal) is also a Gaelic name for the month of August.

There is an interesting alternative explanation of the name Lammas. It is supposed to come from Lamb Mass, alluding to the ancient custom of sacrificing a lamb in the middle of the summer, when the lambs are actually ready for first slaughters. This tradition can be traced to the Cathedral of St. Peter in York and is of course related to more affluent people, who ate their bread with lamb. While there is not much support for this theory, we can surely connect Lammas with lambs through sheep and cattle fairs that took place at the same specific time.

Ancient celebrations

Lammas was a so-called rent day when several rights to the usage of the land were settled between owners and renters, typically from Lammas to the beginning of February (Candlemass). It probably all started with gatherings of the tribes, preferably on the hills or at the wells. While today we know Lammas as a celebration of the harvest, cattle very likely played a more important role in older times.
Apart from the sacrifice of an animal a so-called blood sacrifice (pricking a finger and throwing the pin in) at the holy wells was customary.

well as magical symbol of lammas
The echoes of ancient customs can be found today as pilgrimages to the hilltops and different sports events as natural successors of ancient contests. Instead of blood sacrifice at wells, many villages decorate their wells with flowers and other ornaments. Throwing coins in wells was popular thousand years ago and still is.
Another interesting custom was a trial marriage. A gathering was a perfect opportunity for matchmaking and a young pair had a chance to live like a husband and wife for up to one year. After that interval, they had to decide if they want to stay together forever or change their partners.

Christian celebrations

According to the tradition, a loaf of bread is baked from flour made from fresh corn and taken to the church to be blessed. This is related to the old Celtic custom of using the bread as the ultimate result of the first harvest for the protection of the crop. Neopagans base their celebration on spells related to freshly baked bread as well.
Numerous pilgrimages started in ancient times of Paganism survived or were revived in slightly different forms. In most cases, they are now associated with local saints or St Patrick. Visiting the wells with healing powers survived in several parts of Great Britain too.

lammas harvest festival

Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh also known as Lughnasa and Lugnasad is an old religious festival of Celtic origin that in certain parts transformed into a Christian festival of St. Peter's chains. Lughnasadh is traditionally celebrated on August 1 as the day of the first harvest and the feast of god Lugus' marriage.

While Lugus or Lugh is sometimes used for the same deity, what serves well enough for this article, we should not Lugus is pan-Celtic and Lugh (also Lug) is an Irish god. In both cases, he is connected with numerous skills, including fight and arts, but his festival is actually held in honor of his foster mother - Tailtiu, who, according to the legend died of exhaustion while clearing the Ireland plains. Thanks to her agriculture were enabled and therefore sacrifices (crop, bread, and especially in older times bulls) are still an important part of Lughnasadh.

lugh by herbert robert millar


While the first day in August always falls approximately in the middle of the summer solstice and autumn equinox, the celebration can move a bit:

  • depending on weather conditions people chose between harvesting and celebrating, which led to the move of the feast for a day of a few days,
  • while August 1 remained the official holiday, it wasn't celebrated if it fell on a working day (losing a working day wasn't productive) but rather on the nearest Sunday (the last in July or the first in August),
  • thanks to the gradual transition from the Julian to Gregorian calendar in different parts of Great Britain people celebrated Lammas on August 1 or August 12 but sometimes moved it to the feast of some Christian saint
  • in last years some old traditions were used to revive and expand almost forgotten festivals in different mostly Anglo-Saxon areas of the world with Lammas-related festivals (the festival in Exeter in Devon, for instance, has more than 900 years of history) which are held at the beginning of the August and may last for two, three or even more days,
  • there is also a so-called Lunar Lamas, which is celebrated on the full moon closest to the August 1,
  • as a sunlight-related festival Lughnasadh is connected on 1 August in Northern Hemisphere only, while in Southern Hemisphere it falls on 1 February.

Similar festivals around the world

Ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated similar festivals associated with harvest and fertility. In Greece it was connected to Adonis, whose blood and repeated reunion with Aphrodite triggered the life on Earth after each winter, resulting in the first crops in the middle of the summer. Festivals in honor of Adonis were held in late July. Romans choose the same time of the year, but they connected festivals to Heraclea (Hercules), a god with many characteristics similar to Lugh in Ireland. Different contests were very popular at such festivals.

lammas pilgrimage hilltop

Almost all ancient nations celebrated the late July and beginning of August in similar ways, always in connection with some kind of death and rebirth, typical for life cycles where death is necessary to provide space and fertilizer for the new life which, again, should be taken to provide food for people.

It's interesting to note that a Green Corn Festival survived in some parts of America among Native Americans who celebrated it many centuries before the arrival of Europeans. Games and dance are very important parts of this tradition as well.

In Eastern Europe, the end of July and the beginning of August was also time for very similar celebrations. The time for the festival was obviously dependent on weather conditions. Northern areas in general celebrated a week or two later than the people living in the South.

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