getting started

Advent 101: A beginner's guide to the seasons

If you didn't grow up in a liturgical tradition (Episcopalian/Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.), the Advent season may be unfamiliar territory to you. Maybe you want to learn more about Advent, Christmas (all twelve days of it!), and even the Church Calendar more generally, but you don't know where or how to start. You're in the right place. Here's our Advent 101, a beginner's guide to the seasons:

Advent and Christmas are distinct seasons.

Advent, which means "arriving," consists of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The central theme of Advent is expectation. It's a season when Christians both prepare their hearts to celebrate Christ's first coming at Christmas two thousand years ago and look forward to Christ's second coming at the end of time.

The Christmas season runs for twelve days from December 25 to January 5. The central theme of Christmas is joyous celebration as we commemorate the birth of Christ our Savior.

Advent traditions impart a preparatory rhythm to the season.  

During the Advent season, let your outward practices reflect and shape the inner preparation of your hearts. The most basic Advent tradition is lighting the candles of an Advent wreath as the season progresses. With each week of Advent, a new candle is lit, and the wreath becomes a growing circle of light, a beautiful symbol of our hope in Christ.

Other practices, like an Advent calendar and decorating the home for Christmas, are wonderful ways to experience the rhythms of Advent. Kids love these traditions, too! Our own kids look forward to them every year.

Christmastime is a joyous festival.

While Advent is a season of expectation, Christmas is a season of celebration. Christmas is less rhythm and more revelry. Gather with friends and family, throw a party or two, share meals, give gifts, sing carols, play games. It’s hard to go wrong at Christmastime. It really is the most wonderful time of the year!

And the celebration doesn't end on December 25. The season of Christmas lasts for twelve days. Find ways to "keep the party going" through fun-filled traditions, feastdays, and music.

Advent and Christmas are seasons of the Church Calendar.

The Church Calendar or Christian Year is an annual cycle of seasons that correspond to key events in the life of Christ. Through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost, Christians for centuries have commemorated Christ's birth, ministry, passion, death, resurrection, and second coming.

The Calendar is a way of keeping and seeing time differently. It's a way of centering our time and activities around Christ. Advent is always the beginning of a new Christian Year. Learn more about the Church Calendar here.

So how do I get started?™ was designed to help Christians get started with Advent, Christmas, and the Church Calendar. And if you've already started, we hope the site helps you go deeper. We've designed two resources to bless you in your journey through the seasons:

  • Seasonal calendar: Our seasonal calendar has the key dates for the Advent and Christmas seasons, including the special feastdays to enrich your journey. Print it off and hang it on your fridge!
  • Family Guide to the Seasons: The Family Guide is a short devotional resource, chronologically arranged, with easy reference to the practices, prayers, Scripture readings, and even musical selections for the days of the seasons. Pull up the web version on your phone or tablet. We also designed a booklet version that can be printed double-sided and folded and stapled down the middle.

Stay tuned!

As Advent approaches and throughout the seasons, follow us here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more ideas, from crafts to book reviews, to help make the holidays more meaningful and more Christ-centered.