Picture of the day. Wednesday, December 1st

Advent candles at St Mary’s Church, Upper Swainswick.

December lst means you can start opening the doors of your Advent calendars. What chocolate delights hide behind this first day of the festive month? Each door opened adding to the excitement as we count down to Christmas.

We get our Christmas tree from Germany and – apparently – the idea of crossing off the days of December – down to the 25th – came from there too.

They would add a chalk mark on their front doors each day. Then they started putting a new religious picture on their wall each day – even adding a new candle to the tree so there would be 25 ready to be lit on Christmas Day.

Gerhard Lang is credited with the first modern-day Advent calendar when in 1908 he released his first design. Though you didn’t open doors you added little coloured pictures to a piece of cardboard each day.

The two-layered – door opening version – soon followed and, although the calendars disappeared during the Second World War, they were soon revived.

Traditionally, they would have a nativity scene to remind people of the birth of Jesus though festive images, daily hidden ‘presents’ and prices are now extremely variable.

December 1st

Alongside the calendar Advent candles became popular where a small portion of wax was burnt down each day.

Which brings me back to churches like St Mary’s and for Christians everywhere the church candles symbolize that Jesus is the Light of the World.

There are four candles, one for each Sunday leading to Christmas and a fifth candle for Christmas day. The four Sunday candles are usually smaller than the central one. There are variations in the colouring of the candles, often there are three purple and one pink candle. Occasionally, all of the candles are purple. The central candle is usually a large white pillar candle.

The purple represents repentance. The pink symbolizes joy. The central candle is called the Christ candle and is not lit until Christmas day.