In my ongoing mini-series on what we as Christians mean by the season of Advent, I thought a brief history of the season might be in order. Being a history major, it is my wont. Its my blog, and I'll blog if I want to ;)
The earliest concrete evidence we have of any sort of Advent season really begins in about AD 500. It seems to have originated somewhere in Gaul (modern day France). There are some sermons from Caeserius, Bishop of Arles (502-542), in which we find mention of a preparation before the birthday of of Christ. A Synod in Macon, Gaul, around 581 orders a lenten like fast the week before the start of Christmas.
Advent spread in the West to Spain and Italy, where in 650, much evidence points to a 5 Sunday season of Lent in Church calendars. In the eastern Church, we find no documents for the observance of Advent earlier than the eighth century. Gregory VII, pope around 1000, changed that formula to 4 Sundays before Christmas. Currently, Advent is scheduled to start on the Sunday nearest the Feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, November 30th.
There in a nutshell is the history of Advent. Hope this is helpful. More later on what Advent means symbolically and liturgically.