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Advent wreath; the candles are purple for the first, second and fourth Advent and pink for the third, according to the liturgical colors

Advent ( Latin adventus "arrival"), actually adventus Domini (Latin for the arrival of the Lord ), describes the time of year in which Christianity prepares for the feast of the birth of Jesus Christ , Christmas . At the same time, Advent reminds us that Christians should await the second coming of Jesus Christ . According to both Catholic and Protestant tradition, Advent begins with Vespers on the eve of the first Sunday in Advent and with it the new church year .

There is an indirect connection between the Adventist denomination and the time of Advent, as both terms refer to the coming of Christ.


The term Advent can be traced back to the Greek term ἐπιφάνεια epipháneia ("apparition", see Epiphany ) and in the Roman Empire meant arrival, presence, visit of an official, in particular the arrival of kings or emperors ( adventus Divi "arrival of the divine ruler" ). But it could also express the arrival of the deity in the temple . Christians adopted this word to express their relationship with Jesus Christ ; In the Vulgate , adventus is the classic expression for both his incarnation and his return at the end. It was adopted as a loan word in the modern Central European languages.


At the beginning of the Advent season - possibly from the middle of the 4th century - the Old Church set the period between St. Martin's Day (November 11th) and the original date on which the birth of Jesus was celebrated, the feast of the apparition of the Lord on January 6th. Fasting was initially three days a week, and later every day except Saturday and Sunday. In the eight weeks (56 days) from Martin's feast to January 6, there were 40 fast days without the weekends, corresponding to the 40-day fasting period before Easter. The first traces of such a preparation for the feast of Jesus' birth can be found in the Eastern Church , where the feast of the Epiphany was an important date for baptism. In the West, the Advent period of Lent first developed in Spain and Gaul.

The expectation of the birth of Jesus found its expression in the liturgy around the 5th century, verifiably first in Ravenna and around the middle of the 6th century in Rome, where the texts particularly emphasized the joyful expectation of the Incarnation of Christ. The eschatological return of Christ and the Last Judgment were later emphasized by Irish missionaries such as Columban the Younger , who did missionary work in Gaul and who contributed to shaping Advent as a time of serious penance ; For example, the Gloria and the Hallelujah were dispensed with in Holy Mass, which was also adopted for the Roman Advent liturgy in the 12th century. This thematic ambivalence between a time of penance and an attitude of joyful expectation is expressed in the liturgy on the various Advent Sundays to this day.

The four-week Advent season with reference to Christmas goes back to the 7th century. It was called tempus ante natale Domini ("time before the birth of the Lord") or tempus adventūs Domini ("time of the coming of the Lord"). Pope Gregory the Great set the number of Sundays in Advent for the Western Church at four. The four Sundays symbolized the four thousand years that people had to wait for the Savior after the fall of man .

Although King Pippin and Emperor Charlemagne had ordered the four-week Advent season for the Frankish Empire, individual dioceses continued to hold a five or six-week Advent period in the Latin Church . The binding determination of the rule of when Advent is celebrated comes from the arbitration of the so-called " Strasbourg Advent Dispute ". Bishop Wilhelm of Strasbourg took the view that Advent should be four full weeks. But this did not catch on. At the instigation of Emperor Konrad II , a synod in the Limburg monastery on December 3, 1038 in the presence of the emperor decided that there should only be four Advent Sundays, i.e. the first Sunday in Advent to be celebrated between November 27 and December 3 be. If the fourth Sunday of Advent fell on Christmas Eve , then Christmas began with Vespers on that day. The decision was made by the bishops Azecho von Worms , Reginbald von Speyer , Heribert von Eichstätt , Thietmar von Hildesheim and Walter von Verona . This regulation was later confirmed by the Council of Trent , after different regional traditions had re-established themselves. The legally binding regulation was made in 1570 by Pope Pius V. In some dioceses that have remained in the Ambrosian rite , e.g. B. in the Archdiocese of Milan , has held a six-week Advent season.

The Orthodox churches celebrate Advent six weeks to this day.

As pericope for the Gospel on the Advent Sundays in the 7th century were read: Jesus' entry into Jerusalem ( Mt 21 : 1-9  EU ), the second coming of the Son of Man ( Lk 21 : 25-22  EU ), the request of John the Baptist to Jesus ( Mt 11.2–10  EU ) and the testimony of the Baptist ( John 1.19–28  EU ). The gospel of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem ceased to exist in the Catholic Church with the reform of the Roman Missal in 1570 ; in Protestant churches it is still read on the 1st Sunday of Advent today.

Like Lent before Easter, the Advent season has been a "closed time" since the Middle Ages up to the present day. In closed times it was not allowed to dance and celebrate lavishly. Solemn weddings were also not allowed to take place in closed times, but silent weddings were. Since 1917, the Advent fast is no longer required by Catholic church law .

Beginning and duration of Advent

year first Sunday in Advent
2019 0December 1
2020 November 29th
2021 November 28th
2022 November 27th
2023 03rd of December

Advent begins in the Latin church with the first Vespers on the eve of the first Sunday in Advent and ends on Christmas Eve before the first Vespers of Christmas . The Advent season of the Latin Church lasts 22 to 28 days and always has four Sundays, with the exception of the dioceses, which adhere to the Ambrosian rite .

The reason for the different length of Advent (as opposed to Lent , which has a fixed length) is that the beginning is tied to a flexible Sunday, but the end to a fixed day of the month, December 24th or 25th. The earliest possible date for the fourth Advent is December 18th and the latest possible December 24th. As a result, the Advent season begins on the eve of November 27th at the earliest and on the eve of December 3rd at the latest.

Advent in the Roman Catholic Church

Theological accents

The basic order of the church year in the Roman Catholic Church says:

“The Advent season has a double character: on the one hand, it is the preparation time for the high Christmas festivities with its memory of the first coming of the Son of God to the people. On the other hand, through this commemoration, the Advent season directs hearts towards the expectation of the second coming of Christ at the end of time. From both points of view, Advent is a time of devoted and joyful anticipation. "

The Archangel Gabriel announces the
coming of the Lord to the Virgin Mary . Oil painting by Robert Campin , 1420–1440, Brussels

In the liturgy of Advent, the expectation of the promised messianic dispensation is expressed, which in the Christian understanding begins with the birth of Jesus and ends with the parousia of the Son of Man and the transformation of creation into a new heaven and a new earth ( Rev 21  EU ). Since the liturgical reform of 1970, the Feast of Christ the King has corresponded with the 1st Advent in the Roman Catholic church year ; As part of the reform, it was moved from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday of the church year, the Sunday before the 1st Advent, and is under the sign of Christ who comes as King . “The exalted Lord and King [is] the destination not only of the liturgical year, but of our earthly wandering in general, 'the same yesterday and today and forever' ( Heb 13.8  EU ), 'the alpha and the omega , the first and the last 'The beginning and the end' ( Rev 22:13  EU ). "

The Advent season in the liturgy

Rorate caeli
John the Baptist points to Jesus Christ , the Lamb of God . ( Matthias Grünewald , around 1515)

During the Advent season, the Gloria is only sung on festivals and high festivals . The liturgical color is purple. At the center of the biblical proclamation in the liturgy of the individual Advent Sundays are the hoped-for return of the Lord, John the Baptist as "forerunner of Jesus" and Mary , the mother of Jesus.

In the liturgy of the third Sunday in Advent, the anticipation is expressed through the possible use of pink (pink = lightened violet) paraments . Occasionally, the candle on the Advent wreath for the third Sunday in Advent is pink. This Sunday in the Catholic and Anglican church year after the Latin Incipit the Introit Gaudete in Domino semper ( "Rejoice in the Lord always") Gaudete called.

The Liturgy of the Hours in Advent is characterized by the fact that each day there is a separate text for a short reading, antiphons to Benedictus and Magnificat, as well as the closing ceremony. The responsories of Laudes and Vespers are the same on all days. From December 17th to Christmas Eve , the O-antiphons in the Roman Book of Hours form the antiphons for the Magnificat in Vespers . As a special feature, the Gradual of the Premonstratensians offers an eighth O-Antiphon O Virgo virginum . This is sung on December 23rd, which is why the first O-antiphon is sung on December 16th.

In the Catholic Church, so-called Roratemessen , i.e. mass celebrations , which are celebrated by candlelight before sunrise , are widespread .

During Advent there are some festivals and days of remembrance that are not related to Advent in terms of the festive idea, e.g. B. the solemn feast of the Virgin and Mother of God, conceived without original sin, on December 8th, St. Barbara's Day on December 4th and St. Nicholas' Day on December 6th. The feast of Mary is closely related to the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary on September 8th, nine months later. The two days of remembrance of saints are associated with Advent customs: On the feast of St. Barbara, branches of Barbara are cut, which then bloom at Christmas. The holy bishop Nicholas brings small gifts.

Advent in the Evangelical Church

Sheepfold church St. Martin zu Munster (Örtze) on the fourth Advent 2011

"The Advent season is in many ways a time of remembrance and expectation, preparation and penance", formulates Karl-Heinrich Bieritz in his introduction to the Proprium de tempore in the Evangelical Church Service Book and cites it as a short formula for the expectations that relate to Jesus Judge Christ, the Advent prefecture: "You sent him as the son of your people Israel to proclaim salvation to the peoples; through him you fulfill all the promises of the prophets."

The character of the four Sundays in Advent is indicated by the weekly sayings .

  • First Sunday in Advent : "Behold, your King comes to you, a righteous man and a helper." (Zech 9: 9b) The Gospel of the entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21: 1-11), in conjunction with Psalm 24, marks Sunday, which is expressed in some Advent songs. The “meek” Christ riding a donkey into Jerusalem sets an important accent for the Protestant Advent season. Weekly songs are: Now come, the Gentile Savior (EG 4) and How should I receive you (EG 11).
  • Second Sunday in Advent: “Rise up and lift up your heads because your redemption is near.” (Lk 21:28) The saying of the week is taken from the Gospel in Lk 21: 25-28. The Old Testament reading (Is 63.15–64.3) is taken up from the first of the two weekly songs: O Savior, tear open the heavens (EG 7).
  • Third Sunday in Advent: “Prepare the way for the Lord, for, behold, the Lord is coming mightily.” (Is 40: 3.10) The focus is on John the Baptist as Christ's pioneer; Benedictus is read as the gospel . Both weekly songs have a rather ascetic character: With Ernst, o Menschenkinder (EG 10) and The night has advanced (EG 16).
  • Fourth Sunday in Advent: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say: Rejoice! The Lord is near! ”(Phil 4,4.5b) In contrast to the first three Sundays in Advent, the anticipation of the Christmas festival shines through here. Therefore pink can be chosen instead of the liturgical color violet (1st – 3rd Advent). The white shines through in the violet of Advent and Lent. The focus of the 4th Advent is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The pericope order of 2018 sets a new accent here by reading the Gospel of Luke 1.26ff., The visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary. The Gospel reading can include the subsequent visit of Mary to Elisabeth, and the Psalm can be replaced by the Magnificat . Weekly songs are: Well shout, all you pious (EG 9) and O come, oh come, you morning star (EG 19).


The Orthodox churches celebrate Advent every six weeks as Lent , from November 15th (of the corresponding calendar) to December 24th. The term Advent is not so common there and has only recently been used. One speaks more of the Philip fast or Christmas fast . The church year in the Orthodox churches does not begin on the first day of Advent, but on September 1st. On the second Sunday before Christmas, the "Lord's Day of the forefathers" is celebrated. It is celebrated in memory of all the saints in the Old Testament. On the first Sunday before Christmas, the ancestors from Christ to Adam are remembered. From December 20th, the prayer of the hours is marked before Christmas.

regional customs

Advent wreath

The Advent wreath has four candles with his back to the light that has come into the world with Christ ( Jn 1,1-14  EU , Jn 8.12  EU ).

Advent wreath with different candles for workdays and Sundays

In 1839 the Protestant theologian Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881) had a wooden candlestick with 23 candles hung for the first time in the prayer room of the “ Rauhen Haus ” in Hamburg - 19 small red candles for the working days until Christmas, four thick white ones for Sundays.

The originally Protestant custom of the Advent wreath also found its way into the Catholic Church after the First World War , because the light symbolism was compatible with the liturgical requirements of the Catholic Advent season (1925 Cologne, 1930 Munich). The Benedictional contains a rite for the blessing of the Advent wreath, the praise of God a celebration for the blessing of the Advent wreath in the family. In some places the candles have the traditional liturgical colors of the Advent Sundays: three purple candles and one pink candle for the third Sunday in Advent ( Gaudete ) .

In the Eastern Churches , too , the Advent wreath was partially adopted today, and six candles were added to match the larger number of Sundays in Advent.

advent Calendar
Erzgebirge light peak

advent Calendar

Going back to various customs of counting the days leading up to Christmas from the evangelical environment that arose in the 19th century, Advent calendars of various types emerged in Germany since the beginning of the 20th century, especially for children, with doors that can be opened since 1920. Advent calendars usually have 24 doors, one of which is opened from December 1st to December 24th (“December calendar”) in contrast to liturgical advent calendars, which start on the first day of Advent and have little doors until January 6th, the feast of the Appearance of the Lord . They also have four additional doors for the Advent Sundays.

Light arcs

As a relic of the mining tradition of the Ore Mountains, there is a candle arch in many windows during Advent and Christmas when it gets dark . In the dark season of the year it expressed the longing of the miners for the sunlight who, during the winter months, moved into the tunnel when it was dark and only returned home at night. Each light originally represented one returned from the mountain mining lantern. A full arc of the house means that all the workers of this house safe and sound from the pit have come back.

In addition to the traditional motifs from the daily work and life of miners, the design of candle arches now also includes the representation of landscapes or local sights (e.g. Dresden Frauenkirche ).

The candle arch was particularly widespread in Saxony, Thuringia and the Upper Palatinate . It can also be found increasingly in other parts of Europe.

Newer light symbolism

Creation and use of the Advent labyrinth 2013 in Frankfurt-Bornheim

The symbolism of light is taken up in newer meditative design elements such as the Advent labyrinth . The path through the labyrinth is a symbol for the path through life. In the center, the target can be the light in the form of a candle or symbolized by a gospel book as the word of God .

In some churches during Advent and Christmas, a candle burns in a lantern with the peace light that is lit in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and spread in a light relay in Europe. Worshipers can use this light to light their own candles and carry the light home.

Finding a hostel and carrying women

From the medieval tradition of the Christmas game as a spiritual or liturgical game, the customs of the search for a hostel originate , in which young people go from house to house and sing a hostel song with assigned roles, as well as carrying women , especially in Alpine customs ; Here, on the last days before Christmas, an image of the Virgin , starting from the church, is carried from house to house and venerated in the family. It returns to church on Christmas Eve .

Advent songs and liturgical chants in Advent (selection)

The most famous Advent songs and chants include:


Christmas shopping 1950

Recently there have been efforts by the churches in Germany to extend the Advent season through retail and advertising beyond Christ the King Sunday or Eternity Sunday , on which the day of remembrance of the deceased is celebrated in the Protestant churches , or to open retail stores on Advent Sundays put a stop to it through campaigns and legal action. The churches hope that consumers will understand . Thus, according to the principle that the offer of demand follow, argues: "Will not buy the goods, they will disappear sooner or later again at the wrong time from the shelves."

The Evangelical Church Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia and the Catholic Church, represented by the Archdiocese of Berlin , filed a constitutional complaint against the Berlin Shop Opening Act, which made it possible to open shops on all four Sundays in Advent , citing Article 140 of the Basic Law . On December 1, 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the Berlin regulation is unconstitutional.

Web links

Wiktionary: Advent  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Advent  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Advent  - Sources and Full Texts

Julia Martin: That means the four Sundays in Advent. In: . 1st December 2018 .;

Individual evidence

  1. Julia Martin: That means the four Sundays in Advent. In: . December 1, 2018, accessed January 5, 2019 .
  2. Hansjörg Auf der Maur : Celebrating in the rhythm of time I. Men's festivals in the week and year. Regensburg 1983, ISBN 3-7917-0788-4 ( Church service. Handbook of liturgical science , edited by Hans Bernhard Meyer , Part 5), p. 180.
  3. ^ For example, Gregor von Tours , † 490.
  4. Hansjörg Auf der Maur: Celebrating in the rhythm of time I. Men's festivals in the week and year. Regensburg 1983, ISBN 3-7917-0788-4 ( Church service. Handbook of liturgical science , edited by Hans Bernhard Meyer , Part 5), p. 180, based on research by Josef Andreas Jungmann .
  5. ^ Adolf Adam : Celebrate the church year. Herder Verlag, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1979. P. 109f.
  6. ^ Adolf Adam: Celebrate the church year. Herder Verlag, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1979. p. 110.
  7. Advent on; accessed on January 2, 2015
  8. ^ Adolf Adam: Celebrate the church year. Herder Verlag, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1979. p. 110.
  9. Codex minor ecclesiae Spirensis . Speyer, 13th century. Jasper von Altenbockum: Strasbourg Advent dispute: Why Konrad refused to celebrate . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 26, 2011
  10. Why Konrad refused to celebrate . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . Frankfurt November 26, 2010. Heinz Wolter: The Synods in the Reich and in Reichsitalien from 916 to 1056 , pp. 359–361, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 1988, ISBN 3506746871 ; (Digital scan)
  11. Capitulus Evangeliorum (645–755 AD).
    Hansjörg Auf der Maur: Celebrate in the rhythm of the times I. Men's festivals in the week and year. Regensburg 1983, ISBN 3-7917-0788-4 ( Church service. Handbook of liturgical science, edited by Hans Bernhard Meyer, Part 5), p. 182f., Based on Theodor Klauser : The Roman Capitulare Evangeliorum. Texts and research on its oldest history. 1: types. Münster 1935, pp. 13–46.)
  12. “Public merrymaking and dancing are forbidden during the closed time. To abstain from private events of this kind is the wish and admonition of the church. ”(Official Journal Diöz. Augsburg 1930, pp. 52–54).
  13. Basic Order of the Church Year and the New Roman General Calendar, No. 39. Department of Practical Theology - Liturgical Studies & Sacraments, January 9, 2015, accessed on November 30, 2018 .
  14. ^ Adolf Adam: Celebrate the church year. Herder Verlag, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1979. p. 148.
  15. Church leadership of the VELKD, Council of the Church Chancellery of the EKU (ed.): Evangelisches Gottesdienstbuch. Agende for the Evangelical Church of the Union and for the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany . 3. Edition. Verlagsgemeinschaft Evangelisches Gottesdienstbuch 2000, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-7461-0141-7 , p. 681-682 .
  16. The liturgical year in the tradition of the East and the West. In: Arbeitshilfen 310th Secretariat of the German Bishops 'Conference and from the General Secretariat of the Orthodox Bishops' Conference in Germany, November 30, 2019, accessed on November 29, 2020 (German).
  17. Hansjörg Auf der Maur: Celebrating in the rhythm of time I. Men's festivals in the week and year. Regensburg 1983, ISBN 3-7917-0788-4 ( Church service. Handbook of liturgical science , edited by Hans Bernhard Meyer , Part 5), p. 181.
  18. Some publications speak of 20 or 24 white candles, e.g. B. Uwe Birnstein: Originally 28 candles: four white and 24 red ones. Der Erzieher. In: November 30, 2007, archived from the original on January 19, 2012 ; accessed on August 15, 2019 . In view of the fact that the 1st Sunday of Advent fell on December 1st in 1839, a total of 23 candles are likely to be the most likely variant. 24 candles are plausible against the background that December 24th belongs to Advent - and not to Christmas. The 24 white and four red candles could be a misperception on the basis of figures, such as those in the Rough House are seen .
  19. Manfred Becker-Huberti : Celebrations, festivals, seasons. Living customs all year round. Special edition. Freiburg-Basel-Vienna 2001, ISBN 3-451-27702-6 , p. 108.
  20. Manfred Becker-Huberti : Celebrations, festivals, seasons. Living customs all year round. Special edition. Freiburg-Basel-Vienna 2001, ISBN 3-451-27702-6 , p. 123f.
  21. ↑ : Waiting for Advent is worth it. The big churches in Baden-Württemberg start the "Advent is in December" campaign
  22. ↑ The joy of sheltered Advent Sundays. Evangelical Church in Baden, December 7, 2006, archived from the original on February 11, 2013 ; accessed on August 15, 2019 .
  23. Diocese of Eichstätt: Time to wait? Advent is in December - Frauenbund wants to encourage consumers to rethink ( memento of December 18, 2008 in the Internet Archive ); News from November 7, 2008
  24. BVerfG, judgment of December 1, 2009, Az. 1 BvR 2857/07 and 1 BvR 2858/07, full text .
    BVerfG, press release 134/2009 : Store opening on all four Advent Sundays in Berlin not constitutional