The fourth Sunday before Christmas (Levavi) marks the start of the season of Advent (Latin adventus from the Greek παρουσία (parousía) – the physical arrival of a royal or official person) for Christians of the Western churches. The original celebration of the season was marked by a 40-day fast, but the Western churches no longer continue this tradition, while Eastern churches maintain it during their season of the Nativity Fast.
[There is much hoop-de-do about the number 40 in various religions, especially those of the Adam-Eve story. 40 days, 40 nights, 40 years. People wandering, rain swamping everything, bushes burning, visions occurring. Yet the most significant importance to nearly every human – the duration of a pregnancy, 40 weeks – seems to get overlooked.]
The Advent Calendar was introduced in the mid-19th century by German Lutherans. Last year I gave each of my two grandsons an Advent calendar. They were baptized Roman Catholic, I am an ecumenical Atheist who believes in some creative thingy: I can’t explain the first cosmic dust in any other way. As best as I try, my mind just cannot wrap itself around the concept of nothing (and how does one measure time when nothing exists and when there is no one to mark it, no material to carbon-date, no isotopes to trope?) and then poof! Something. Likewise, I can’t wrap my mind around the idea of something creating the first cosmic dust, but given the prevalence of dust in my apartment, I sort of get that concept. I don’t see any dust machines cranking the stuff out, and there are no elves or fairies on the ceiling generously casting it about, and it doesn’t resemble any other matter, so where did it come from? Voila! There it is.
So the two boys were five and seven years old last year. The seven-year old likes the idea of surprises and was quite content to open each day of the calendar as appropriate to reveal that day’s milk chocolate coin. The five-year old, whose aptitude for waiting resembles mine, opened all of his days within the first day or two, consuming the chocolates as if he sensed Armageddon approaching and then proceeded to open all of his brother’s days and consumed those chocolates as well.
I mentioned a fast, something which neither the five-year old nor myself are capable. That was part of the Advent tradition from around the 4th century common era. The fast was preceded by a feast, much like Lent and Mardi Gras. Unlike the current Advent season, the 40 days of Advent at that time began November 11, coinciding with the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. The fast was known by some as St. Martin’s Lent.
I would like to find an advent calendar again this year for the boys, again with chocolate. I suspect I may not find anything in San Miguel, so if I head NoB for the holidays, I will buy one there and they may have their own seasonal feast once more.