Nov. 28 marks the beginning of Advent in Western Christianity, the beginning of the new liturgical calendar of this tradition, through Christmas Eve on Dec. 24.
In the Orthodox and Coptic traditions, where the liturgical year begins in September, this time of year is known as Nativity Fast, a combination of fasting interspersed with special feast days. Christmas Day in this tradition is on Jan. 7, 2022.
In all Christian traditions that observe either Advent or the Nativity Fast, the season is one of penitence and hopeful anticipation. Christians mark this time to anticipate the celebration of the birth of the Messiah as described in the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament.
It is important to note that there are a wide variety of denominations and traditions within Christianity, just as there are different groups within other religious faiths, and not all Christians mark this season of the year in the same way.
However, here are a few ways that many Christians mark Advent and/or Nativity Fast:
- An Advent wreath is used in churches and in homes each of the four Sundays prior to Christmas. A candle is lit for each Sunday of Advent. Some congregations may use four blue candles, or three purple and one pink candle.
- Devotionals and prayers may be read.
- Purple or royal blue are often worn.
- Dietary restrictions in the Eastern tradition: Observers often abstain from eating red meat, poultry, dairy products, fish, and oil and wine, except for certain feast days and breaks in the fast.
- The eve of the Nativity in the Orthodox and Coptic traditions is commonly a strict fast day.
For more information about Advent and Nativity Fast, the Boston Public Library has excellent blog postings that are informative about the observances:
Western Advent and Christmas: https://www.bpl.org/blogs/post/the-origins-and-practices-of-holidays-christmas/
Eastern Orthodox/Coptic Nativity Fast and Christmas: https://www.bpl.org/blogs/post/the-origins-and-practice-of-holidays-feast-of-the-nativity/
— Jeremy Craig, Communications Manager for the DEI Website