My Granny, Emily Eliza Mitchell, was baptised at Shipley, in Sussex, on Advent Sunday in 1888, 128 years ago.
I learnt that piece of information 24 years ago, when, following a fairly traumatic birth, we took our first baby daughter to Church on Advent Sunday for a Thanksgiving Service. She is partly named after her great grandmother, and my Mum remarked on how appropriate the day was.
I do like Advent. There’s something about all those great Advent hymns in minor keys (‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’, ‘Come thou long-expected Jesus’, ‘Lo, he comes with clouds descending’ etc), the purple of altar frontals and liturgical robes and advent candles to light. And of course Advent Calendars. I remember as a child being thrilled when our neighbours the Madgwicks gave us an Advent calendar (no chocolate ones in those days!) and I still like to have one. It brings out the child in me to count the days till Christmas! When our children were small we made a large Blue Peter-inspired one which involved toilet rolls and lots of tissue paper, glue and paint. It got re-used for a number of years.
Last Sunday being Advent Sunday it got me thinking about what my ancestors might have been doing during that period in years gone by. Not counting the days with chocolate-filled Advent Calendars, that’s for sure.
David George, my earliest proven ancestor on my Norfolk George tree, married Elizabeth Jefferies on Sunday 7 December 1806 at East Dereham – the second Sunday in Advent, but only a year later they buried their first baby, Mary Ann, on 13 December 1807, the third Sunday in Advent.
David’s son John George married Emily White on Sunday 6 December 1840 – also the second Sunday in Advent.
His son David, my great grandfather, married Elizabeth Mayne in Croydon on a Saturday – the 29 November 1873 – the day before Advent Sunday.
On my Wakefield tree, my great grandfather William Wakefield married Annie Neighbour on 10 December 1893 in Newington, again the second Sunday in Advent.
Caleb Osborne, the cordwainer from Shipley in Sussex, married Mary Botting on the Tuesday after Advent Sunday in 1802 – the 30 November.
My Mitchell and Phipott ancestors, on the other hand, seem to have had a distinct aversion to doing anything like getting married or baptised during the back end of the year – apart from my Granny, that is.
I discovered when Advent Sunday was in years gone by on this website: www.timeanddate.com/holidays/uk/first-day-advent , where you can also calculate all kinds of dates.
So Happy Advent! I hope this season is not too frenetic for you and that you can find some space to welcome the coming light:
“O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”