What is the history of Advent?
The season of Advent has been observed by Christians since the 5th century. From the beginning, the season of Advent has been a time of preparation for Christians–to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ, and to prepare for the time when Christ comes again to establish his everlasting kingdom. In ancient times, Advent was a season of penitence and fasting, much like the season of Lent. However, many denominations today focus more on the hopeful aspects of the season of Advent, emphasizing Christ’s coming again to bring peace and justice to all.
In some denominations, the color of the season of Advent remains purple, largely due to a continued focus on the penitential aspect of the season (the color of Lent is purple, as well). However, many churches are moving towards using the color blue to distinguish Advent from Lent. In the Episcopal Church, either purple or blue may be used. We use purple for practical reasons–it means owning one less set of altar hangings and vestments!