Advent was originally a Latin word that translated into “the coming”. Advent was developed as the four-week period before Christmas Eve to encourage Christians to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and prepare themselves spiritually for the coming New Year. The Advent Wreath, candle, and calendar are all tools to help Christians do this.
Advent Wreaths are formed into circles symbolizing the circle of life, rebirth with the upcoming New Year, and Gods unending love for his followers. They are made of Evergreen branches (from Christmas tree firs, with all the symbolism associated with Christmas trees) and the green color is to remind followers of the renewal that will come with spring.
Advent candles often come in groups of four candles, with two different colors. The three purple candles stand for sorrow, penance, and expectation of eternal life. Purple was also the historic color of royalty and this color is to remind followers that God is the ultimate royalty and is to be obeyed above all men. The last candle is normally red or white in color and symbolizes joy and hope. Candles are lit every day during the four weeks of Advent.
The Advent calendar was created to also help followers focus on the meaning of the Christmas season and is often seen with closed doors for each day of the Advent season. One the first day of Advent, the first set of doors are opened and there will be a message (and often a picture) to reflect upon for that day. The next day the second set of doors is opened, etc. providing a new message of hope and reflection every day up to Christmas Eve. This was a very good visual way for children to see and understand the passing of the days and be ready when Christmas had finally arrived. It is believed that the Advent calendar evolved from a German tradition of hanging up 24 small bags containing a treat or gift, which the children in the family got to open each day from December 1st to December 24th – Christmas Eve.