In Europe, the build-up to Christmas officially starts on the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new church year. This period leading up to Christmas is widely celebrated and there are many old customs that go with it.
The word 'advent' has its origins in Latin: adventus, meaning 'arrival'. Advent is the time of preparation for and expectation of the arrival of Christ. As long ago as the 6th century, Pope Gregory decided that there should be four Advent Sundays, referring to the 4000 years which, in the church's view, mankind had to wait for the return of its savior.
The magic of Christmas starts with the December arrival of the advent calendar. Advent starts on the first Sunday after November 26th. This time is devoted to preparations for Christmas. Cities all throughout central Europe set up booths and stalls in their market squares where you can buy everything you need for Christmas – decorations for the tree, candles, crib figures, delicious traditional Christmas treats, and presents for Christmas Eve. Walking through such a decorated, festive market is really an exceptional experience that will always be remembered.
With Advent come opportunities to sing! During this time of the year, millions the world over get into the "Christmas spirit" by singing carols and hymns that uplift spirits and reflect on the birth of the Christ Child. The most famous of these, Stille Nacht (or Silent Night), was written outside of Salzburg in the little village town of Oberndorf, where groups can visit and perform this hymn in the little memorial Chapel. In addition to ensembles performing on their own, most of the major cities in central Europe put on Advent Choir Festivals sponsored by the local municipalities. Music Celebrations has the ability to insert select choirs into these festivals. Whether it's Prague, Germany, Austria, northern Italy, or Switzerland, you can be assured that your singers will cherish the memories of performing in Europe's most prestigious venues during this magical time of the year.