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One of the things I really look forward to doing in Germany is visiting the Christmas markets. When I try to figure out when they are, however, I often stumble across phrases such as “second week of Advent.” What’s up with that?

The word “advent” derives from the Latin ‘adventus,’ meaning “arrival”, and denotes a time of waiting for the arrival of Christmas. In many religions, Advent is considered the start of a new church year. The Advent season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and lasts until midnight on Christmas Eve. The four Advent Sundays in 2008 are Nov. 30, Dec. 7, Dec. 14, and Dec. 21.

The length of the Advent season can vary anywhere from 22 to 28 days. This year, Advent will last for 25 days.

A well-known symbol of the Advent season is a wreath made of evergreen branches and four candles. On the first Advent Sunday, a single candle is lit, with another candle being lit on each successive Sunday. Some traditions call for a fifth and final candle lit to be lit on Christmas day.

Can’t get enough of those German Christmas markets? They’ve been around a good while. According to Germanoriginality.com, the first recorded date for one goes all the way back to 1393. In today’s Germany, you have over 2,500 Christmas markets to choose from. Good luck trying to hit them all.

Got a question about goings-on in Europe? E-mail: news@estripes.osd.mil

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