All About Advent
By Luke Luedy
“Why am I seeing purple and pink everywhere?”
“What’s the deal with people shoving chocolate in calendars?”
“Is this important to our university?”
What you and many others are most likely noticing is Advent.
Advent, to put it simply, is the period leading up to Christmas. Advent’s primary focus is the anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a liturgical (relating to public worship) season celebrated by Catholics and certain Protestant religions. This year, it began on November 27th and will last until December 24th.
Though Advent is a religious event, it’s still incredibly significant to all students and faculty here regardless of religious or non-religious backgrounds. La Roche, after all, is a Catholic university.
With our school’s deep roots in Catholicism, even just becoming more knowledgeable about the symbolism and themes of Advent is important. Even if you don’t identify as Catholic, the themes and overall message of Advent are universally significant, regardless of one’s upbringing.
So without further ado, here’s a quick crash course on what exactly Advent is.
Perhaps most obvious is the sudden influx of the colors purple and pink.
These colors are most associated with specific Advent candles, three purple, and one pink.
Like with most aspects of the Catholic faith, there’s more than what meets the eye here. As Advent is roughly four weeks, every Sunday marks the observation of a certain theme. While what exactly these themes are can vary ever so slightly among religions, churches, or families, they’re generally consistent across the board.
An article by Unity, a website specializing in spiritual guidance, highlights some universal themes associated with each week of Advent. Week One pertains to Hope, Week Two to Peace, Week Three to Love, and Week Four to Joy. Candles for Weeks One, Two, and Four are purple, while Week Three is pink.
Additionally, the respective candle is lit at the end of each week, such as ending Week One by lighting a purple candle.
Finally, depending on who exactly is observing Advent, a fifth, white candle may be included. Lit on Christmas Eve, this candle represents the birth of Jesus Christ.
Candles are one way to mark progress through Advent, though calendars achieve the same goal.
A sizeable amount of these calendars may incur a more Christmas-like theme, being shaped like a tree, but they still have religious foundations.
Common calendars contain 25 squares representing the days leading up to Christmas. Each square is covered by a small door or flap, but each day they become open. Being “open” basically means having the door or flap for that day removed or ajar.
Behind the barrier can be multiple things relating to the Catholic faith, such as a smaller part of the Nativity scene or a pertinent Bible quote.
And yes, families can then place chocolates or candies within each of these squares for the children.
And as an interesting tidbit, Advent calendars are relatively modern in the United States, though it may not look like it.
Advent calendars were originally conceived by German printer Gerhard Lang in the 1920s, who came up with the idea of cutting out small doors for each day of Advent.
Decades later, after World War II, Advent calendars would become a hot commodity elsewhere than their original European borders. According to an article by Crosswalk, an online Christian living magazine, the tradition only spread to America after former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower was pictured opening days on a calendar alongside his grandchildren.
As both La Roche and America can be seen as melting pots for cultures and individuals alike, Advent calendars are a hallmark of this notion.
So, all in all, is any of this really that important for us?
The answer to that question is yes.
To put it bluntly, religious or not, Advent gives us a very important message: that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. That throughout all the struggle, pain, and hardship we may face, there’s a relief at the end of it all.
And this sort of concept isn’t even solely an Advent thing.
There’s a reason that so many religions hold important holidays around the end of the year. We all need that drive, that courage, to persist onwards. To end the year off with a bang, and keep that ball rolling into the next one.
Events like Advent, ultimately, give us hope.
Hope that we’ll enter the next year a better person.
Hope that we can do our best to love and cherish those close to us.
And hope, of course, that we’ll survive Finals Week.
Regardless of religious or non-religious affiliation, being able to hope and look forward to things is utterly crucial.
In a society that seems more and more twisted by the second, mindsets like these are starting to become a necessity.
Though it could feel at times that our university, the nation, and even the world is on a downward spiral, we must never lose that anticipation that Advent bestows.
Maybe not tomorrow, and maybe even not next year, but things will improve. But we can only bring such joy and fulfillment in our lives with the right attitudes, and events like Advent reinforce this.
In the end, just keep holding out hope. We need it now more than ever.