Glad Första Advent - Happy First of Advent!

Second only to Sankta Lucia, after Christmas itself, is the time spent in preparation for this important holiday season - during what's known as Advent. 

  • Soon it’s the First of Advent, which means it's time to light the first candle of the Advent candlestick.
  • The official season of Advent is about month long, marked by the four Sundays before Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent is Nov. 29 this year. Holiday celebrations in Sweden usually kick off with an observance of Första Advent, often with a casual party with candles, glögg and pepparkakor. It's also a day for decorating — with light as well gingerbread houses, little elves, tomtar (Santas) and julbockar (Christmas goats).

  • Glögg, a classic Swedish drink for the First of Advent and Christmas. You can easily make your own.
  • Christianity came to Scandinavia around the 10th century, blending to some degree with the pagan yule traditions around the winter solstice. After Sweden had a Lutheran state church from the years 1500 until 2000, the Christian influences are still strongly felt in what are largely more secular holiday traditions today — starting with candlelight. The season of Advent (from the Latin word "adventus" which means "arrival") is a time of preparation as Christians anticipate the arrival of Jesus Christ.

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  • In December, Sweden has very few hours of daylight, and the tradition of lighting a candle for each Sunday of Advent is both figuratively and literally significant for the light it brings.

  • A vendor sells candles at the Julmarknad (Christmas market) in Stockholm's Old Town, Gamla Stan, and an Adventsstjärnor shines in an apartment window. Wikipedia photo.
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  • The weeks of Advent mark the time until Christmas. Photo by Lisa Mikulski
  • Swedish homes are adorned with "Adventsstjärnor" (Advent wreaths) in windows and lighted candles, signaling the start of Advent. The lighting of the first Advent candle, often nestled in moss and lingonberry sprigs in an "Adventsljusstaken" is a solemn but happy occasion. The first candle is lit on Första Advent and allowed to burn down a little. On the Second Sunday of Advent it is time to light both the first and the second candles, and so on, until by the Fourth Sunday the first candle is burning down as the last one is lit.

  • During Advent many windows are hung with an "Adventsstjärna" (Advent star). Photo from the Dalarna region by Bo Zaunders.
  • "Adventsljusstaken" — An Advent candle holder with four candles which mark the Sundays of Advent. A new candle is lit each Sunday before Christmas. Often decorated with sprigs of lingonberries, the tradition became popular in the 1920s when Adventsljusstaker were first sold in stores.

  • Advent candles are lit in many windows during Advent and Christmas.
  • The Advent wreath came to Sweden via Denmark around 1910, gaining popularity when florists began selling them during the German occupation in 1939-1940. It was part of a “light-custom” that was embraced by many Danes during the blackout. Many Scandinavian households have one or more of these electric candlesticks in their windows, especially during Advent. Just like the menorah, these candlesticks have seven branches. Oskar Andersson in Sweden made the first electric candlestick in 1934.

  • 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
  • "Adventsstjärnor" — The Advent star. Electrically lit stars of paper, wood, straw or perforated metal are also commonly seen hanging in windows.