What is Advent and what does it mean? What you need to know about this time of the year

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What is Advent?

(Picture: Getty)

Most of us have excitedly ripped open the first door of our advent calendars this morning (or all of them, because chocolate). But what is advent, and where did it come from?

The days counting down to Christmas were first marked off with chalk on believers’ doors. However, the first advent calendar was made in Germany in the 19th century, when the mother of a child named Gerhard Lang made her son a calendar made up of 24 tiny sweets stuck onto a sheet of cardboard.

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When Lang grew up, he opened a printing office with his friend and produced what is thought to be the first-ever printed advent calendar, with a small coloured picture for each day of Advent.

The idea escalated into the tradition we know today, but there’s more to the season than stuffing your face with chocolate…

(Picture: Getty)

(Picture: Getty)
  • Nobody had advent calendars during World War 2, as production ceased to conserve paper
  • You can’t celebrate funeral masses on the Sundays of Advent
  • Advent start dates are different each year – although most assume that 1st December signals the start of Advent season, it actually begins on the Sunday that is closest to 30th November.
  • The season is colour coded – purple and blue are used during the first two weeks, with the third Sunday of Advent using pink. This represents a change of mood to cheer, in preparation for Christ’s birth
  • Orthodox Christians don’t eat meat and dairy during Advent, and also avoid olive oil, wine and fish on certain days of the season
  • In the northern counties, a now extinct advent custom was for poor women to carry two dolls around, representing Jesus and the Virgin Mary. If you weren’t visited by the doll-bearers before Christmas Eve, bad luck was believed to descend upon the household