Now that Thanksgiving is behind us we look forward to the Christmas season. In Mexico, “Navidad” begins with “El Adviento” (Advent) and the season runs all the way to February 2nd , “La Fiesta de Candelaria”. In English we call this day at various times, Candlemas Day, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, or the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The February 2nd date is also known in the U.S. as “Groundhog Day”. In any case, it is a long stretch from the beginning of December to the beginning of February when the “Navidad” decorations are finally taken down and the Christ child is removed from the manger, given new clothing, and put away until the next year. The Mexican people, like people everywhere, enjoy “Navidad” more than any other time of the year. My wife Gina has already prepared her “Corona de Adviento” or “Advent Wreath” and you can see it in the picture below. She and my sister Suzy definitely have one thing in common. They both go nuts over Christmas traditions.
The English word "advent", or in Spanish, "adviento", comes from the Latin word "adventus", which in itself is a translation of the Greek word "parousia", which is a reference to the Second Coming. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians currently do in expectation of the Second Coming of Christ. For that reason and because of the ritual of lighting the advent candles there is something tugging at my heart that says perhaps we should also celebrate Hanukkah (Chanukah ), the Jewish festival of lights, in tandem with our Jewish brethren. The Jewish festival tradition incorporates a nine branched candelabra called a "menorah" and commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of the lamps burning for eight nights with very little oil. The Hanukkah festival lasts for eight nights and a new candle on the menorah is lit on each successive night. The ninth candle on the menorah, is called the “shamash” candle and it is used for the lighting of the other eight candles.
Now, before anyone from either side accuses me of blasphemy I can assure you that this is just a fanciful dream of mine and as we witness so many religious conflicts unfold around the world I realize more and more that it seems to be the purpose of organized religion to drive people apart and not bring them together. I just thought that it would be "cool" if Hanukkah would start on December 16th or 17th at the same time as the Mexican Posada season gets under way and both celebrations would conclude on December 24th. Okay, okay, I know that it could never happen and besides it would be too complicated. The Jewish festivals are based upon the lunar calendar and Hanukkah moves around quite a bit. The first night of Hanukkah won't fall on December 17th until the year 2014 and after that it will be quite a long spell before it repeats. This year Hanukkah doesn't begin until December 21st but that's okay too. After all, there is an old tradition that says Jesus was born during the Jewish festival of lights.
Technically Advent begins with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle which is November 30th and covers four Sundays, lasting until midnight on Christmas Eve. The first Sunday may be as early as November 27th, and in that case Advent has twenty-eight days. In some years the first Sunday may be as late as December 3rd giving the season only twenty-one days. This year, 2008, Advent begins on Sunday, November 30th. Gina's “Corona de Adviento” has the traditional five candles, three violet, one rose, and one white. The first two violet candles are lit in succession on the first and second Sunday and on the third Sunday they are joined by the rose candle and this Sunday is called “Gaudete Sunday” and marks more or less the halfway point of Advent. The word “Gaudete” comes from Latin and means to rejoice. On this Sunday the joy of expectation is emphasized. The nine days of the Mexican Posadas begin around this time. On the fourth Sunday the last violet candle is lit and the white candle in the center is lit on Christmas Eve after sundown. Ooops, by now some of you may have realized that the three candles on Gina's wreath that are supposed to be violet are red and not violet. That is because I couldn't find any violet candles at Walmart. I don't think using red Advent candles instead of violet ones will add to my time in Purgatory but I am not sure. Maybe I better write to the Vatican about that one just in case. However, if I made an error I will just do what I always do and just throw myself at the mercy of the God through His son, Jesus.
We invite you to join us in celebrating Advent. Here are the scripture versus that we will concentrate on for each of the four Sundays and Christmas Eve:
First Sunday of Advent
Second Sunday of Advent
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
Third Sunday of Advent
Fourth Sunday of Advent
You can find plenty of scripts and fancy prayers to go along with the scripture reading and the lighting of the candles but I suggest that you do what I do and just “wing it”. God will understand and anyway, I don't think He is impressed with our words. He is looking to see what we have in our hearts. Say Amen!
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