Giant Advent Calendars

Advent ’til Candlemas?

To cheer us up in this depressing time we have decided to keep our Giant Advent Calendar up till Candlemas on the 2 February.

This extension of Christmas is a medieval tradition that kept Christmas celebrations going until the next church holiday which was Candlemas, forty days after the birth of Christ. In Jewish tradition women were ritually unclean for forty days after the birth of a son and for 60 days after the birth of the daughter. After this period women would attend the temple or synagogue to be purified so that they could take part in worship again.  Mary took the first opportunity she had to take Jesus to the temple at the end of the 40 day period. The Gospel of Luke describes how Simeon held the baby Jesus and called him the Light of the World. Candlemas became the day for blessing church candles for the year ahead.

Beverley Minster and St Mary’s team up to create two Giant Advent Calendars

Beverley’s two great churches – both of which are undergoing urgent restoration – have joined forces for this major community arts project. Schools, nurseries, groups and bubbles will decorate the wooden boards that will form the 25 squares in the huge outdoors Advent calendar at each site.

Every day, from December 1st – 25th, a new colourful square will be added to the walls of the construction sites. The collaborative activity is part of the Minster’s Sanctuary project, and St Mary’s Curious Carvings project, both of which are generously supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

In medieval times, the Minster granted sanctuary to people who were in fear of their lives. The Nativity, and Mary & Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, is one of the most famous stories of sanctuary. St Mary’s church is home to over 600 medieval and Tudor carvings. These carvings can be found in the ceiling throughout the building and are known as roof bosses. Among the bosses we find many subjects that will appear in our advent calendar, including kings, angels and lots of different animals.


Tap/click on image to pause.

The Christmas Story and Sanctuary

Mary and Joseph are probably the most famous sanctuary seekers in history. Initially they sought refuge in a stable when the couple returned to Bethlehem to take part in a census. Here Mary gave birth to Jesus.

In the excitement of Christmas, we often forget that Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled Bethlehem, in fear of their lives. When seeking Jesus, the wise men looked for the new-born King of the Jews at the royal palace. King Herod told them it was prophesied that the King of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem. Herod felt threatened by this new rival king and made the wise men promise to return to tell him where he was – so he could worship the baby too.

The wise men followed the star and found baby Jesus. They were warned by God in a dream not to trust Herod and returned home by a different route. Furious, Herod ordered the murder of all boys under the age of two, in order to kill this new king. Warned in a dream, Joseph fled with his family to Egypt, where they stayed until Herod died and it was safe to go home.

In medieval times these stories inspired artists.

The Flight into Egypt – Victorre Carpaccio c 1500

Massacre of the Innocents – Pieter Bruegel c 1565