By Anna Cramer
“Advent feiern heisst warten können; Warten ist eine Kunst, die unsere ungeduldige Zeit vergessen hat…“
“To celebrate Advent means to be able to wait; Waiting is an art which our impatient times have forgotten…”
When the quarter million refugees from Syria and other middle East and Balkan countries, who streamed into Austria and Germany in the fall of 2015, will experience their first December there, they will find it in every shop window and living room, in every school and in most offices, in every church and shopping mall: the Adventskranz (advent wreath). They come in all sizes; from small wooden rings set on tables to huge hanging evergreen pine-twig wreaths lifted by cranes into the market squares, and its four candles are lit one by one each Sunday of Advent, the period between the end of November and Christmas Eve.
In 1839 during the early years of industrialization, the Hamburg pastor Hinrich Wichern, rescued neglected and exploited children, based on the principle of work and festivities in the protection of “families” with up to twelve minors. In his mission “Rauhes Haus”, he invented the Adventskranz by placing candles on a large cartwheel ring to help the children visualize the passage of time before the joyous event of the birth of Christ Dec. 25th.
In former times, Advent was a time of fasting for Christians – to assist the soul in its preparation for the liturgical event. Today however, special delicatessen, cookies and sweets are almost inseparable from this season. Children are given Advent calendars with twenty-four molded chocolate figures hiding behind every cardboard door to be opened day-by-day from December 1. on. Most adults who wish to test themselves once a year by, for example, giving up alcohol, candy or watching television, rather choose Lent, the time before Easter, for such exercises in self-denial. And willing observers of such customs will have trouble sticking to their austerity schedule in December, as most companies and public offices get together for their yearly communal dinner or office party during the four weeks of Advent, often in conjunction with a group visit to a Christmas market.
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