This Sunday 17 November in Milan and Toledo it is the beginning of Advent.
Because last Monday 11 November was St Martin’s Day it follows that in the Diocese of Milan, which retains its own local liturgy, it must be Advent Sunday.
The very long Advent is also observed in the Mozarabic rite found in parts of Spain. Some Orthodox churches keep a forty day Advent with fasting .
But Advent is not the start of Christmas although many shops in the UK and even some European countries seem to hope so.
In the USA there is Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, followed by Black Friday, which helps to hold back the tide of commercial Christmas.
Father Christmas, or Santa Claus as Americans call him, will in New York not be seen until 28 November when he appears at the end of Thanksgiving Day procession.
The western church will begin Advent on Sunday 1 December which is handy for the 1-25 day Advent calendars.
Anglican priest Sue Wallace has this week reflected on the longer Advent: “It seems to me to make sense to start [Advent] this early, and then it doesn’t get overtaken by Christmas celebrations quite so quickly.”