The word advent means "a coming" and refers to the four-week period during which Christians prepare for the coming of Jesus on Christmas Day. Advent begins on the feast day of Saint Andrew (one of the 12 apostles of Christ) which is celebrated on the Sunday nearest November 30.
Many people use special Advent calendars to keep track of the 24 days before Christmas. An Advent calendar has 24 numbered flaps concealing a colorful Christmas scene. One flap is lifted daily to uncover a holiday picture.
In addition to keeping Advent calendars, many Christians keep an Advent wreath in their homes during the holiday season. Most of these wreaths are made of evergreen or holly branches and may lie on a table or hang on a door. Four candles, one for each Sunday of Advent, are placed among the branches. On the first Sunday, the family lights one candle and joins in prayer. They repeat this ceremony on each Sunday of Advent, lighting one additional candle each time. Three of the candles are dark purple, and the fourth is pink or light purple. It remains unlit until the third Sunday, when people celebrate the beginning of the second half of Advent. A large red candle, which symbolizes Jesus, is added to the wreath on Christmas Day.