How many days are in Advent, really?

No matter how you count it, no matter what you call it, the season before Christmas is all about the numbers.  Surprising, therefore that so few people agree about just exactly how many of what things we should be counting.

Maybe you have one of those calendars with the little doors. Let’s say the doors have little treats or trinkets behind them, one for each day of in the month of December before Christmas. Yes, I’m talking about what many people call an “Advent Calendar.” Well, then your number is 24, and for good reason. In most of the world (but not in all) and for much of Christian history (though not all), Christmas has been observed on  the 25th of December. Thus, it is understandable that someone who is very patiently and expectantly waiting for Christmas might mark the days in December. This is certainly one way of figuring Advent.

But, let’s say you don’t have that kind of calendar. Let’s say that you have a wreath. Maybe it’s one that you made in Church on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. In all likelihood, your wreath does not have 24 candles. That would be a fire hazard for sure. More probably it has only four. Why? Because this is the number of Sundays that the many (but not all) in the church for much (but not all) of it’s history have observed as a time of waiting before Christmas. Four weeks is usually enough to cover most of December, except when Christmas is on a Monday. Morover, 4, along with 3 and 7 and 12, is a good, church-y number.

So, how many days should one count in Advent. My mind had changed about this over the last several years. Where I was once a stickler for the orthodox church position (“Keep the ‘vent’ in Advent” if you will). I’ve softened somewhat. Any more, I’m more interested in folks simply counting something, be it doors or treats or candles or whatever.  Whatever it takes to place a little bit of a pause in our lives before rushing into Christmas is fine. We simply need to slow down for a season.

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