For many Christians, the period of Advent (‘coming’ in Latin) has begun. The four weeks in the run up until 25thDecember when they will be celebrating the birth of Jesus, who they consider as the son of god. For the Orthodox Church this will be celebrated on 7th January 2021 according to the Julian calendar. In several Christian cultures and countries, the Epiphany on 6th January is also celebrated, which is associated with the story of three wisemen or kings who visited for the birth and bearing gifts. It is also known as 'Nollaig na mBean' or Women's Christmas in Ireland who celebrate the women who worked so tirelessly during the holiday period by gathering in each other’s homes or local pubs.
Christmas has been marked throughout history in many different ways. More ‘recent’ traditions and probably most recognisable include hanging up Christmas stockings for Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas, celebrating a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve (nowadays not necessarily at midnight), a Christmas pudding (more traditional in England than in Scotland). Whereas older customs include for example what was traditionally called ‘Wassailing’ bringing Christmas greetings to neighbours and friends through song as well as sharing a drink, which is now more commonly singing Christmas carols from door-to-door. The Advent Candle Wreath is also an older and more universal tradition, one which very much becomes a focal point in many households, with one candle being lit for each Sunday of advent; the candle of Hope, the candle of Peace, the candle of Love, and the candle of Joy. This year, these Advent candles will be lighting up our homes with an even greater brightness.