Even if you are not celebrating Christmas or only doing it for the kids there is no escaping from the festival. We are now in the middle of two significant Sundays which mark the beginning of Christmas.
Fans of “The Archers” probably know that last Sunday, the 20th November, the Sunday before Advent is “Stir Up Sunday”, so called from the first two words of the collect of the day “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.” It was the custom, still practised today by Jill Archer and granddaughter Pip, to stir the Christmas Pudding on this day and recite “Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot.” Pip Archer who appears to be leading the Christmas charge this year even took time to explain to her boyfriend Toby the reason for mixing the pudding. It was to give the ingredients, including the alcohol an additional opportunity to blend. So, if you haven’t stirred your Pud yet you’d better get down to it as soon as possible.
The other significant Sunday is next Sunday, the 27th of November a.k.a Advent Sunday. In the eyes of the church this is known as “New Year’s Day” and marks the start of Christmas and the beginning of the Christian year. The church theme during Advent is to remind Christians of the first coming of Jesus Christ as saviour and to his second coming as judge. Special liturgical colours for church hangings and robes are introduced – purple or Sarum blue to represent hopefulness. On the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word “Rejoice” the colour is sometimes changed for rose.
If you think that four weeks is too long a run up to Christmas just be grateful that you are not living in the 5th Century when Advent began on the 11th November, St Martin’s Day, and it took the form of a six week fast up to Christmas. After about a hundred years of fasting like this, (n.b that’s ‘fasting’ not ‘feasting’) it was eventually decided to shorten Advent to its present length and forget the fasting. Cheers all round!
Advent (Lat, adventus, arrival)
The four weeks before CHRISTMAS, beginning on St. ANDREW’S Day (30th November), or the Sunday nearest to it, commemorating the first and second coming of Christ; the first to redeem, and the second to judge the world.
BREWERS Phrase & Fable
There has been a recent growth in the popularity of Advent Calendars – usually a card divided into 24 or 25 sections, each sealed with a small numbered door. On the first day of December children open the first door to discover a small treat inside -a sweet perhaps – and continue opening the doors on a daily basis up to Christmas Eve.
The origins of the Advent calendar come from German Lutherans who at least as early as the beginning of the 19th century would physically count down the first 24 days of December often by simply drawing a chalk line on the door each day or hanging small religious pictures on the wall.
The first known handmade Advent calendar appeared in 1851. According to the Lower Austrian (NÖ) Landesmuseum, the first printed Advent calendar was produced in Hamburg in 1902 or 1903. Other authorities claim that a Swabian printer, Gerhard Lang, was responsible for the first printed calendar in 1908.This consisted of 24 little coloured pictures that could be stuck onto a calendar. Several years later his company, Reichhold & Lang of Munich, produced a calendar with 24 little doors with religious pictures hidden inside. Unfortunately Reichhold and Lang went out of business in 1930 by which time they had created over 30 separate designs. During the same period another company, Sankt Johannis Printing Company was producing Advent Calendars with religious texts hidden behind the doors. Because of paper shortages Advent Calendars were not commercially produced during the 2nd World War. After the war production was taken up by Richard Sellmer of Stuttgart and today his company Richard Sellmer Verlag, maintains a stock of over 1,000,000 calendars worldwide.
h4. Advent Calendar He will come like last leaf's fall. One night when the November wind has flayed the trees to bone, and earth wakes choking on the mould, the soft shroud's folding. He will come like frost. One morning when the shrinking earth opens on mist, to find itself arrested in the net of alien, sword-set beauty. He will come like dark. One evening when the bursting red December sun draws up the sheet and penny-masks its eye to yield the star-snowed fields of sky. He will come, will come, will come like crying in the night, like blood, like breaking, as the earth writhes to toss him free. He will come like child.
— from Martyn Day