In the Christian calendar, the first season of the church year, a period of preparation for the birth of Jesus. Advent begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30 and continues until Christmas. Viewed as a penitential season, it is also considered a time of preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. The origin of Advent is unknown, but it was observed as early as the 6th century. In many countries it is celebrated with popular customs such as the lighting of Advent candles.