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What Is Advent?

The meaning of Advent

by Gordon and Ronni Lamont (revised, originally published in 2002)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To introduce and explore the season of Advent.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a selection of Advent calendars, including, if possible:

    - a branded calendar aimed at young children, such as a Thomas the Tank Engine calendar that contains chocolates, i.e. one with no religious significance at all
    - a calendar that depicts a traditional nativity scene
    - a calendar that depicts a theme from another culture. Christian Aid usually produces one that shows how different cultures celebrate the season
    - a fabric or embroidered calendar. Ask around and you may be able to find a home-made one
    - an Advent candle with 25 days to burn down
    - an Advent wreath with five candles


  1. Show the children the range of calendars and the Advent candle.

    Ask the following questions.

    - Who has any of these at home?
    - What is the purpose of these items?

  2. Discuss each type of calendar, explaining how it works. Ask individual children to open the doors on the calendars and see what is behind. You may wish to light the Advent candle. Ask the children why some calendars have chocolates and some just have pictures. Ask which type of calendar the children prefer and why.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  3. Explain that the calendars help us to wait and expect.

    Ask the following questions.

    - What are we waiting for?
    - What happened on the first Christmas day?

  4. Ask the children what they do in their homes if they are going to have special visitors. Suggest that we probably clean up the house, and get ourselves ready. We think about the visitors and look forward to their arrival. This is the meaning of Advent: arrival. Advent is a time to prepare ourselves, to get ready. Some people like to have less to eat during Advent so that when Christmas comes, they can really appreciate the food and the fun.

    Who are we getting ready for? Who are we expecting to arrive?

  5. Ask the children to have a think, in a time of quiet, about what they would put behind the windows of an Advent calendar to remind them of Christmas.

    What would they choose to represent this special time of year?

    Listen to a range of responses.

  6. Choose five of the most appropriate responses and ask some children to represent them in still pictures at the front of the room. Still pictures are made by children holding a position, like a photograph. This can be the person who suggested the idea on his/her own, or with a friend if the still picture needs more than one person.

    Some ideas for Advent still pictures could be buying presents for family and friends (child and shop assistant); lighting a candle; opening a door on the Advent calendar; and the shepherds seeing the angels in the nativity story. However, be ready for more unusual ideas from the children, too.

    (If the ‘living Advent calendar’ is a success, you could reprise the idea at assemblies leading up to Christmas, with children working out still pictures in advance.)

Time for reflection

Look again at the Advent candle and think about being ready for Christmas: the birthday of Jesus and a time of celebration and fun.

If possible, show the children the Advent wreath. Explain that the candles on the outside represent the four Sundays in December and the white candle in the centre represents Jesus, whose birthday is celebrated at Christmas.

Ask the children to think of all of the preparations that will be made as Christmas approaches: the food, the tree, the presents and so on. Ask them to consider how they could help to make Advent a really good time for everyone in their homes.

Ask the children to think of all the special things that happen at school at this time of year. Ask them to consider how they could help to make Advent a really good time at school.


Come and praise the Lord our King (Come and Praise, 21)

Publication date: November 2017   (Vol.19 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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