The first Sunday of Advent is just as important as Lucia in Sweden. Advent - the four weeks leading up to Christmas. 

  • The weeks of Advent mark the time until Christmas. Photo by Lisa Mikulski
  • Advent
    This year on Sunday, December 3 the time has come to light the first candle of Advent.

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  • By the end of November and first half of December friends or colleagues in Sweden gather at restaurants for Julbordet the “Christmas dinner table,” a buffet combining traditional Christmas fare with the delights of the ordinary smörgåsbord. Some statistics claim roughly 70% of the employed in Sweden are invited to a Julbord by their companies. That’s over three million guests at restaurant tables ... a good start of the holiday season for restaurants that offer this seasonal treat.

  • The approach of Christmas is signified by getting out the Advent candlestick. The first candle is lit on the First Sunday in Advent. Photo: Fotoakuten
  • The Sundays of Advent
    In people’s homes, the approach of Christmas is signified by getting out the Advent candlestick, which is often a little box with four candleholders embedded in moss and lingonberry sprigs. The first candle is lit on the First Sunday in Advent (this year on Nov. 28) and allowed to burn down by one quarter. Next Sunday it is time for the second candle, and so on, until by the fourth Sunday the first candle has burnt right down and the last one was started. This is a peculiarly Swedish custom, but it was inspired by the “Advent trees” of Germany and became widespread in the 1920s.

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  • Check an earlier year's Christmas issue online: Nordstjernan, Christmas 2018 instantly making your life Sweder!

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  • More on Advent: Advent in Sweden - "waiting for Arrival"

  • The third Sunday leads up to Tomasdagen, Tomas Day, Dec. 21 three days prior to the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year.

  • During Advent many windows are also hung with an “Advent star,” the original version of which, made of red paper, was introduced in the 1930s. Today you will often see more sophisticated versions of straw, wood shavings or metal. This custom also originated in Germany, but in recent years it has begun to be overtaken by the electric stepped candlesticks, which also shine from the windows of companies and institutions. In our neighborhood, since we have taken to placing both the stars in three windows and the stepped candlesticks we are commonly considered of Jewish origin—the stepped candlestick can easily be mistaken for a “Menora,” the seven-branched candelabrum and one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish people..
    Germany also invented the Advent calendar, nowadays called the Christmas calendar and first introduced in Sweden in 1932. Later, with the production of tie-in programs, first on the radio and then also on television, sales of Advent calendars broke all records. These calendars are 3-dimensional with twenty-four windows, one of which is opened every day from December 1 to December 24. Behind each window is a picture, a clue, or – if you’re lucky to have a chocolate calendar – a sweet.

  • The celebration of Advent then, is of fairly recent origin. It is only in our own time that church services on the First Sunday in Advent have joined the early morning service on Christmas Day in topping the year’s attendance figures in otherwise secular Sweden. Common to many aspects of modern Advent celebrations is the part played by candles, and this is usually quoted to instance a 20th century “candle revival,” with living light” providing a counterpoise to the cold lighting technology which, towards the end of the 19th century, superseded the old, mellower light sources.

  • Ulf Barslund Mårtensson
    Source: Professor Jan-Öjvind Swahn, Sweden.

  • The word Advent has its origins in the Latin word adventus, which means arrival.

  • The lighting of the first of the Advent candles is often a solemn but happy occasion in Swedish homes. The First Sunday of Advent this year falls on December 3.