Category: Celebrations, Festivals and Holidays


The practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a new year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. However, if a Christian determines to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make?

Common New Year’s resolutions are commitments to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money more wisely, and to spend more time with family. By far, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating more healthily. These are all good goals to set. However, 1 Timothy 4:8 instructs us to keep exercise in perspective: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to physical things. This should not be.

Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, and to attend church more regularly. These are fantastic goals. However, these New Year’s resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honor God and grow spiritually, or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honor God with your body, or is it for vanity, to honor yourself?

Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” John 15:5 declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If God is the center of your New Year’s resolution, it has chance for success, depending on your commitment to it. If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it. If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement in God’s Word, we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution.

So, what sort of New Year’s resolution should a Christian make? Here are some suggestions: (1) pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you make; (2) pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill the goals God gives you; (3) rely on God’s strength to help you; (4) find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you; (5) don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further; (6) don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory. Psalm 37:5-6 says, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Find out how Christmas Traditions and how Christmas is celebrated in lots of different countries and cultures around the world! Find out how your ancestors celebrate Christmas.

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles (The word carol originally meant to dance to something). The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around the 22nd December. The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived.

Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones. In 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called “Angel’s Hymn” should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. Another famous early Christmas Hymn was written in 760, by Comas of Jerusalem, for the Greek Orthodox Church. Soon after this many composers all over Europe started to write ‘Christmas carols’. However, not many people liked them as they were all written and sung in Latin, a language that the normal people couldn’t understand. By the time of the Middles Ages (the 1200s), most people had lost interest in celebrating Christmas altogether.

This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi when, in 1223, he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or ‘canticles’ that told the story during the plays. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in! The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries.

The earliest carol, like this, was written in 1410. Sadly only a very small fragment of it still exists. The carol was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem. Most Carols from this time and the Elizabethan period are untrue stories, very loosely based on the Christmas story, about the holy family and were seen as entertaining rather than religious songs. They were usually sung in homes rather than in churches! Traveling singers or Minstrels started singing these carols and the words were changed for the local people wherever they were traveling. One carols that changed like this is ‘I Saw Three Ships’.

Etching of old Caroling Singing Men from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Koledniki-valvasor.jpg

When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped. However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men called William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages in England.

Before carol singing in public became popular, there were sometimes official carol singers called ‘Waits’. These were bands of people led by important local leaders (such as council leaders) who had the only power in the towns and villages to take money from the public (if others did this, they were sometimes charged as beggars!). They were called ‘Waits’ because they only sang on Christmas Eve (This was sometimes known as ‘watchnight’ or ‘waitnight’ because of the shepherds were watching their sheep when the angels appeared to them.), when the Christmas celebrations began.

Also, at this time, many orchestras and choirs were being set up in the cities of England and people wanted Christmas songs to sing, so carols once again became popular. Many new carols, such as ‘Good King Wenceslas’, were also written in the Victorian period.

New carols services were created and became popular, as did the custom of singing carols in the streets. Both of these customs are still popular today! One of the most popular types of Carols services are Carols by Candlelight services. At this service, the church is only lit by candlelight and it feels very Christmassy! Carols by Candlelight services are held in countries all over the world.

The most famous type of Carol Service might be a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, where carols and Bible readings tell the Christmas Story.

This year for Christmas I wanted to do something totally different. I wanted to include all of my friends, followers and family, from around the world in celebration of Christmas by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas in their native language.

Some languages below use different characters and alphabets, so I have also spelt them in English as best I can.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE

African Languages

Afrikaans (South Africa, Namibia)

Geseënde Kersfees
Akan (Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin) Afishapa
Amharic (Ethiopia) Melikam Gena! (መልካም ገና!)
Chewa (Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe) Moni Wa Chikondwelero Cha Kristmasi
Dagbani (Ghana) Ni ti Burunya Chou
Edo (Nigeria) Iselogbe
Fula/Fulani (Niger, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan, Togo, Guinea, Sierra Leone) Jabbama be salla Kirismati
Hausa (Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Togo) barka dà Kirsìmatì
Ibibio (Nigeria) Idara ukapade isua
Igbo/Igo (Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea) E keresimesi Oma
Kinyarwanda (Rwanda, Uganda, DR Congo) Noheli nziza
Lingala (DR Congo, Rep Congo, Central African Republic, Angola) Mbotama Malamu
Luganda (Uganda) Seku Kulu
Ndebele (Zimbabwe, South Africa) Izilokotho Ezihle Zamaholdeni
Shona (Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana) Muve neKisimusi
Soga/Lasoga (Uganda) Mwisuka Sekukulu
Somali (Somalia, Djibouti) Kirismas Wacan
Sotho (Lesotho, South Africa) Le be le keresemese e monate
Swahili (Tanzania, Kenya, DR Congo, Uganda) Krismasi Njema / Heri ya Krismasi
Tigrinya (Ethiopia and Eritreia) Ruhus Beal Lidet
Xhosa/isiXhosa (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho) Krismesi emnandi
Yoruba (Nigeria, Benin) E ku odun, e ku iye’dun
Zulu (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland) UKhisimusi omuhle
Afganistan (Dari) Christmas Mubarak (کرسمس مبارک)
Albanian Gëzuar Krishtlindjen
Arabic Eid Milad Majid (عيد ميلاد مجيد)
Which means ‘Glorious Birth Feast’
Armenian Shnorhavor Amanor yev Surb Tznund (Շնորհավոր Ամանոր և Սուրբ Ծնունդ)
Which means ‘Congratulations for the Holy Birth’
Belgium

Dutch/Flemish

Vrolijk Kerstfeest
French Joyeux Noël
German Frohe Weihnachten
Walloon djoyeus Noyé
Alsatian E güeti Wïnâchte
Bulgarian Vesela Koleda
China

Mandarin

Sheng Dan Kuai Le (圣诞快乐)
Cantonese Seng Dan Fai Lok (聖誕快樂)
Cornish Nadelik Lowen
Croatian (and Bosnian) Sretan Božić
Czech Veselé Vánoce
Danish Glædelig Jul
Esperanto Feliĉan Kristnaskon
Estonian Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi
Finnish Hyvää joulua
France

French

Joyeux Noël
Breton Nedeleg Laouen
Corsican Bon Natale
German Frohe Weihnachten
Greek Kala Christouyenna or Καλά Χριστούγεννα
Georgian gilocav shoba-akhal c’els
or გილოცავ შობა-ახალ წელს
Greenland

Greenlandic

Juullimi Pilluarit
Danish (also used in Greenland) Glædelig Jul
Hawaiian Mele Kalikimaka
Holland (Dutch) Zalig Kerstfeest or Zalig Kerstmis (both mean Merry Christmas), Vrolijk Kerstfeest (Cheerful Christmas) or Prettig Kerstfeest (Nice Christmas)
Hungarian Boldog karácsonyt (Happy Christmas) or Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket (pleasant Christmas holidays)
Icelandic Gleðileg jól
India

Bengali (also spoken in Bangladesh)

shubho bôṛodin (শুভ বড়দিন)
Gujarati Anandi Natal or Khushi Natal (આનંદી નાતાલ)
Hindi Śubh krisamas (शुभ क्रिसमस)
Kannada kris mas habbada shubhaashayagalu (ಕ್ರಿಸ್ ಮಸ್ ಹಬ್ಬದ ಶುಭಾಷಯಗಳು)
Konkani Khushal Borit Natala
Malayalam Christmas inte mangalaashamsakal
Marathi Śubh Nātāḷ (शुभ नाताळ) or Natal Chya shubhechha
Mizo Krismas Chibai
Punjabi karisama te nawāṃ sāla khušayāṃwālā hewe (ਕਰਿਸਮ ਤੇ ਨਵਾੰ ਸਾਲ ਖੁਸ਼ਿਯਾੰਵਾਲਾ ਹੋਵੇ)
Sanskrit Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa
Shindi Christmas jun wadhayun
Tamil kiṟistumas vāḻttukkaḷ (கிறிஸ்துமஸ் வாழ்த்துக்கள்)
Telugu Christmas Subhakankshalu
Urdu krismas mubarak (کرسمس)
Indonesian Selamat Natal
Iran

Farsi

Christmas MobArak
Kurdish (Kumanji) Kirîsmes u ser sala we pîroz be
Irish – Gaelic Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Israel – Hebrew Chag Molad Sameach (חג מולד שמח)
meaning Happy festival of the Birth
Italy

Italian

Buon Natale
Sicilian Bon Natali
Ladin Bon/Bun Nadèl
Japanese Meri Kurisumasu (or ‘Meri Kuri’ for short!)

Hiragana: めりーくりすます

Katakana: メリークリスマス

Korean ‘Meri krismas’ (메리 크리스마스) or ‘Jeulgaeun krismas doeseyo’ (즐거운 크리스마스 되세요)
Latin Felicem Diem Nativitatis (Merry Day of the Nativity)
Latvian Priecïgus Ziemassvºtkus
Lithuanian Linksmų Kalėdų
Macedonian Streken Bozhik or Среќен Божик
Madagascar (Malagasy) Tratra ny Noely
Maltese Il-Milied it-Tajjeb
Malaysia

Bahasa/Malay

Selamat Hari Natal
Malayalam Puthuvalsara Aashamsakal
Manx (spoken on the Isle of Man) Nollick Ghennal
Mexico (Nahuatl) Cualli netlācatilizpan
Montenegrin Hristos se rodi (Христос се роди) – Christ is born
Vaistinu se rodi (Ваистину се роди) – truly born (reply)
Native American / First Nation Languages
Apache (Western) Gozhqq Keshmish
Cherokee Danistayohihv &Aliheli’sdi Itse Udetiyvasadisv
Inuit Quvianagli Anaiyyuniqpaliqsi
Navajo Nizhonigo Keshmish
Yupik Alussistuakeggtaarmek
This page has a large list of Merry Christmas Native/First Nation Languages
Nepali Kreesmasko shubhkaamnaa (क्रस्मसको शुभकामना)
New Zealand (Maori) Meri Kirihimete
Norwegian God Jul or Gledelig Jul
Philippines

Tagalog

Maligayang Pasko
Ilokano Naragsak Nga Paskua
Ilonggo Malipayon nga Pascua
Sugbuhanon or Cebuano Maayong Pasko
Bicolano Maugmang Pasko
Pangalatok or Pangasinense Maabig ya pasko or Magayagan inkianac
Warey Warey Maupay Nga Pasko
Papiamentu – spoken in the Lesser Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire) Bon Pascu
Polish Wesołych Świąt
Portuguese Feliz Natal or Boas Festas (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year)
Romanian Crăciun Fericit
Russian s rah-zh-dee-st-VOHM (C рождеством!) or
s-schah-st-lee-vah-vah rah-zh dee-st-vah (Счастливого рождества!)
Samoan Manuia Le Kerisimasi
Scotland

Scots

Blithe Yule
Gaelic Nollaig Chridheil
Serbian Hristos se rodi (Христос се роди) – Christ is born
Vaistinu se rodi (Ваистину се роди) – truly born (reply)
Slovakian Veselé Vianoce
Slovene or Slovenian Vesel Božič
Somali Kirismas Wacan
Spain

Spanish (Españo)

Feliz Navidad or Nochebuena (which means ‘Holy Night’ – Christmas Eve)
Catalan Bon Nadal
Galician Bo Nadal
Basque (Euskara) Eguberri on (which means ‘Happy New Day’)
Sranantongo (spoken in Suriname) Swit’ Kresneti
Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka) Suba Naththalak Wewa (සුබ නත්තලක් වේවා)
Swedish God Jul
Swiss Schöni Wiehnachte
Thai Suk sarn warn Christmas
Turkish Mutlu Noeller
Ukranian ‘Веселого Різдва’ Veseloho Rizdva (Merry Christmas) or ‘Христос Рождається’ Khrystos Rozhdayetsia (Christ is Born)
Vietnamese Chuć Mưǹg Giańg Sinh
Welsh Nadolig Llawen
Sci-fi & Fantasy Languages!

Klingon (Star Trek)

toDwI’ma’ qoS yItIvqu’ (Our Savior’s birthday you-enjoy!)
Quenya (Lord of the Rings) Alassë a Hristomerendë (Joyous Feast of Christ)
Sindarin (Lord of the Rings) Mereth Veren e-Doled Eruion (Joyous Feast of the Coming of the Son of God)

Tomorrow is “Good Friday”. The period in which Christ was to face His final persecution and mock trial before His crucifixion. This was posted last year and is worthy of remembrance of what sacrifice He showed towards us.

altruistico

Software: Microsoft Office           “Trial of Christ”

The night of Jesus’ arrest, He was brought before Annas, Caiaphas, and an assembly of religious leaders called the Sanhedrin (John 18:19-24; Matthew 26:57). After this He was taken before Pilate, the Roman Governor (John 18:23), sent off to Herod (Luke 23:7), and returned to Pilate (Luke 23:11-12), who finally sentenced Him to death.

There were six parts to Jesus’ trial: three stages in a religious court and three stages before a Roman court. Jesus was tried before Annas, the former high priest; Caiaphas, the current high priest; and the Sanhedrin. He was charged in these “ecclesiastical” trials with blasphemy, claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah.

The trials before Jewish authorities, the religious trials, showed the degree to which the Jewish leaders hated Him because they carelessly disregarded many of their own laws. There…

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Give thanks for all of these things.... For you are truly blessed.

Give thanks for all of these things…. For you are truly blessed.

The practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a new year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. However, if a Christian determines to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make?

Common New Year’s resolutions are commitments to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money more wisely, and to spend more time with family. By far, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating more healthily. These are all good goals to set. However, 1 Timothy 4:8 instructs us to keep exercise in perspective: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to physical things. This should not be.

Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, and to attend church more regularly. These are fantastic goals. However, these New Year’s resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honor God and grow spiritually, or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honor God with your body, or is it for vanity, to honor yourself?

Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” John 15:5 declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If God is the center of your New Year’s resolution, it has chance for success, depending on your commitment to it. If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it. If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement in God’s Word, we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution.

So, what sort of New Year’s resolution should a Christian make? Here are some suggestions: (1) pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you make; (2) pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill the goals God gives you; (3) rely on God’s strength to help you; (4) find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you; (5) don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further; (6) don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory. Psalm 37:5-6 says, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Matthew 1:18-25

For centuries, society has been slowly drifting down a broad river of change, but speed is picking up, and we have now entered the rapids. Even Christmas is not immune to these changes. It has become just a “holiday” to the world—and, sadly, even to some Christians.

“Merry Christmas” has been replaced by “Happy Holidays,” and carols about Jesus have been traded for songs celebrating Santa Claus, winter, family, and friends. Finding Christ-centered Christmas cards has become a challenge. Snowmen and sleighs have taken the place of manger scenes, which were once common in both private and public settings.

This slide away from Christ is the natural progression of the world, but it is not the direction that believers should go. Drifting is easy: you just relax and follow the path of least resistance. But going against the stream requires constant awareness and diligent effort. We must actively guard against letting the world steal Christ from our celebrations.

Christmas is not just a holiday; it is a holy day—the day God came to earth in the flesh of a tiny baby for the purpose of reconciling sinful mankind to Himself. Holidays are numerous, but there is only one Christmas.

The world tries hard to find pleasure in Christ-less holiday observances, but happiness is often elusive when experiences don’t match expectations. If you feel a sense of letdown, you may have drifted away from an authentic celebration of Christmas. Allow Jesus back in, and joy will return.

Luke 2:1-20

The first Christmas I remember was when I was perhaps three or four years old. I still recall the excitement the moment I awoke and leaped from my bed. I ran to the top of the stairs where I held a fabulous view of the tree and discovered that it was full of presents—and all of them were for mom, dad, my brother and I! I’m sure you, too, can recall memories from past Christmases, whether good or bad. There’s just something about that day that sticks in our minds.

You can be sure that all of the people who experienced the first Christmas never forgot it. Joseph remembered the weight of responsibility on his shoulders as he cared for Mary during their journey and searched for a place where she could give birth. And we can imagine that the shepherds often replayed in their minds the scene of glorious angels and the sight of the newborn Messiah. But Scripture mentions only one who “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). Mary had carried this baby in her womb for nine months, but now she saw what no one else had ever seen—the face of God!

What was it like to see deity displayed in the body of a newborn baby? Though we can never see what Mary saw, we can each remember when we first recognized our Savior—the moment we realized He died for us.

This Christmas, take time to remember when you first met Jesus. What was going on in your life? How did you feel after accepting His offer of forgiveness? How has your life changed since that day? Now imagine what it will be like when you finally see Him face to face in heaven.

Advent Calendar 2“How does an advent calendar relate to Christmas?”

The word ‘Advent‘ has a Latin origin meaning ‘the coming,’ or more accurately, ‘coming toward.’ For Christian believers, Christmas is one of the greatest events in the yearly cycle, being the celebration of the greatest gift ever given by God to mankind. That gift was Jesus, the Son of God Himself, born into this world in human form and coming to live among us to show us the true nature of God, experience human joy and sorrow along with us, and finally, going of His own will to die a horrible, agonizing death. In this way the price was paid for all human sin that had cut us off from our Holy God and Heavenly Father, resulting in our complete and total reconciliation with Him.

Centuries ago, the importance of this event caused many Christians to feel that it was inadequate merely to mark off only one day on the yearly calendar for celebrating this incredible gift from God. Believers had (and still do have) such a sense of awe and overwhelming gratitude and wonder at what happened that first Christmas that they felt the need for a period of preparation immediately beforehand. They could then not only take time themselves to meditate on it, but also teach their children the tremendous significance of Christmas.

At first, the days preceding Christmas were marked off from December 1 with chalk on believers’ doors. Then in Germany in the late 19th century the mother of a child named Gerhard Lang made her son an Advent Calendar comprised of 24 tiny sweets stuck onto cardboard. Lang never forgot the excitement he felt when he was given his Advent calendar at the beginning of each December, and how it reminded him every day that the greatest celebration of the whole year was approaching ever nearer. As an adult he went into partnership with his friend Reichhold and opened a printing office. In 1908, they produced what is thought to be the first-ever printed Advent Calendar with a small colored picture for each day in Advent. Later on, at the beginning of the 20th century, they hit on the idea of making the pictures into little shuttered windows for the children to open day by day in order to heighten their sense of expectation.

The idea of the Advent Calendar caught on with other printing firms as the demand swiftly increased, and many versions were produced, some of which would have printed on them Bible verses appropriate to the Advent period. By now the Advent Calendar had gained international popularity, and children all over the world were clamoring for them as December approached. Unfortunately, the custom came to an end with the beginning of the First World War when cardboard was strictly rationed and only allowed to be used for purposes necessary to the war effort. However, in 1946, when rationing began to ease following the end of the Second World War, a printer named Richard Sellmer once again introduced the colorful little Advent Calendar, and again it was an immediate success.

Advent_Calendar 3Sadly, with the wane of Christianity in Western nations, the Advent Calendar, although still enormously popular with all children, has lost its true meaning. Many, many children and their parents have no idea of the history of the little calendar or its true purpose, which is to prepare us for the celebration of the advent of the Christ-child. Even if they do know, most would not care. Also, the makers of today’s Advent calendars are anxious only to sell their product, and the majority of these neither know nor care about the meaning and purpose of Advent. Their calendars depict Santa Claus and his reindeer, snowmen, holly, mistletoe, and all the secular trappings of Christmas behind the little windows, often along with a piece of chocolate. Fortunately, however, Christian printers are still with us to manufacture calendars for children from Christian families that unfold the story of the nativity with each window that is opened. We, as Christian believers, pray that one day the whole world will be aware of the incredible wonder of the true meaning of Advent and Christmas.

Advent Wreath 2Advent is the season of the year leading up to Christmas. It is observed with various traditions and rituals by Catholics and other liturgical groups such as Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists. In recent years, Advent celebrations of one type or another have been added to many evangelical services as well.

The word advent itself means “arrival” or “an appearing or coming into place.” Christians often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent”; that is, His first and second comings to earth. His first advent would be the Incarnation—Christmastime.

The Advent season lasts for four Sundays. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, or the nearest Sunday to November 30. Advent ends on Christmas Eve and thus is not considered part of the Christmas season. The Advent celebration is both a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation of His second coming. As Israel longed for their Messiah to come, so Christians long for their Savior to come again.

The Eastern Orthodox Church does not observe Advent per se, but they do keep a long fast before Christmas. In the West, Advent has developed a more festive tone, although many churches also keep a fast and focus on prayer and penitence akin to what takes place during the Lenten season (sometimes, Advent is even called “Little Lent”). Advent is seen as a time to prepare one’s heart for Christmas and for the eventual return of Christ (and the judgment He will bring to the world).

Churches that observe Advent usually decorate their sanctuaries in the liturgical color of Advent, purple (or in some cases royal blue). Some churches change the color to rose on the third or fourth Sunday of Advent to signify a greater emphasis on the joy of the season.

OnAdvent Wreath 3e of the most common Advent traditions involves the use of evergreen wreaths, branches, and trees. On the first Sunday of Advent, churches and homes are decorated with green to symbolize the eternal life that Jesus brings. An Advent wreath—an evergreen circle with four colored candles surrounding a white one in the middle—is placed in a prominent spot. The candles are then lighted one at a time, on successive Sundays. The first candle is the candle of “hope” or “expectation.” The three remaining candles on the perimeter are given various meanings depending on the church. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the center white candle is lighted; this is the “Christ Candle,” a reminder that Jesus, the Light of the Word, has come.

Advent calendars, used to count down the days till Christmas, are popular in many homes. An Advent calendar contains a number of covered “windows” that are opened, one a day, until Christmas Day. Each open window reveals a picture related to the season or a poem or a Bible verse or a treat of some kind. Many parents find that an Advent calendar is a good way to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas—although there are secular versions of the calendars, too.

Should Christians observe Advent? This is a matter of personal conviction. Here is the biblical principle: “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord” (Romans 14:5–6).

There is certainly nothing wrong with commemorating Jesus’ birth and anticipating His return—such commemoration and anticipation should be an everyday part of our lives. Are Christians required to observe Advent? No. Does observing Advent make one a better Christian or more acceptable to God? No. Can celebrating Advent be a good reminder of what the season is truly all about? Yes, and therein lies its greatest value.