The last four weeks before Christmas, the Scandinavian countries have a time that is called Advent. It is a time of expectation. Very soon we will celebrate Christmas! The big celebration is Christmas, but in Scandinavia there are several ways to mark the time leading up to Christmas, and many of the decorations are full of meaning.
The first symbol is the star, and it will be fixed in the window with an electric bulb inside. It reminds us about the star that showed the way to the wise men or the magi from the East who came to celebrate that the Messiah had been born 2000 years ago. Since the Scandinavian Winter is very dark, the star will shine day and night.
The second symbol is the candle. On the first Sunday of advent Scandinavians put out the advent candlestick for four candles. Only one candle is lit the first Sunday, two the next, then three and lastly all four candles on the last Sunday before Christmas. We also have songs with four verses, and there is one verse for each Sunday. The candles show us how far away Christmas is. According to the Western tradition, the living lights also remind us that Jesus said: I am the light of the world.
And electric candle stick with several lights will also be put in windows and shine throughout the advent and Christmas season.
Children receive a calendar where there are 24 hatches. Behind each hatch there is a chocolate or a tiny toy. In the past when I was a child, we made an advent hedgehog. A potato was wrapped in aluminium foil, given legs with four matches and another 24 matches were stuck into the back of the potato. Every day one match was pulled out and we could see for ourselves that December 24th, Christmas eve, was approaching.
Advent is a time of anticipation and the word advent means “the coming”. In Scandinavia, we are waiting to celebrate Christmas, to sing songs about the Saviour that came to us as a baby 2000 years ago, to eat food, sweets and gather as a family. Advent reminds us that the celebration will come, but be patient, wait and prepare some more time.
According to the Western tradition, Advent means hope, for children hope of gifts and joy, family celebration and holiday from school. For adults, hope for family get together, traditional celebration and days off work. For everybody hope for joy and peace.