Advent is the period leading up to Christmas. It starts on the Sunday nearest to 30 November and ends on the fourth Sunday before 25 December.

The word 'Advent' means 'coming'. It is a time of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Many Advent customs involve counting the days until Christmas begins, such as the secular use of a chocolate advent calendar.

Some churches have an advent wreath with five candles, one for each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day and one for Christmas Day itself. There are different readings on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day.

Purple is the usual liturgical colour used during Advent in the UK. The colour is often used for hangings around the church, the clergy's vestments, and often the tabernacle.

In some Christian denominations, blue, representing hope, is an alternative colour for Advent, eg in the Lutheran tradition.

What Advent means for Christians today

Advent reminds Christians of the sacred meaning of Christmas. Despite the secular preparations taking place, eg buying presents and going to parties, Advent reminds Christians to remember and prepare for the birth of Jesus. They may also attend carol services as part of Advent.

One important aspect of Advent in the Roman Catholic Church, especially before 16 December, is to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ in judgement at the end of time.