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ADVENT /ad'vent/ n.

The prototypical computer adventure game, first designed by Will Crowther on the PDP-10 in the mid-1970s as an attempt at computer-refereed fantasy gaming, and expanded into a puzzle-oriented game by Don Woods at Stanford in 1976. (Woods had been one of the authors of INTERCAL.) Now better known as Adventure or Colossal Cave Adventure, but the TOPS-10 operating system permitted only six-letter filenames. See also vadding, Zork, and Infocom.

Figure 1. Screen shot of the original ADVENT game

Orange River Chamber
You are in a splendid chamber thirty feet high. The walls are frozen rivers of
orange stone. An awkward canyon and a good passage exit from east and west
sidesof the chamber.

A cheerful little bird is sitting here singing.

>drop rod

>take bird
You catch the bird in the wicker cage.

>take rod

At Top of Small Pit
At your feet is a small pit breathing traces of white mist. A west passage ends
here except for a small crack leading on. 

Rough stone steps lead down the pit.

In Hall of Mists
You are at one end of a vast hall stretching forward out of sight to the west.
There are openings to either side. Nearby, a wide stone staircase leads
downward. The hall is filled with wisps of white mist swaying to and fro almost
as if alive. A cold wind blows up the staircase. There is a passage at the top
of a dome behind you.

Rough stone steps lead up the dome.

This game defined the terse, dryly humorous style since expected in text adventure games, and popularized several tag lines that have become fixtures of hacker-speak: "A huge green fierce snake bars the way!" "I see no X here" (for some noun X). "You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike." "You are in a little maze of twisty passages, all different." The `magic words' xyzzy and plugh also derive from this game.

Crowther, by the way, participated in the exploration of the Mammoth & Flint Ridge cave system; it actually has a `Colossal Cave' and a `Bedquilt' as in the game, and the `Y2' that also turns up is cavers' jargon for a map reference to a secondary entrance.

ADVENT sources are available for FTP at You can also play it as a Java applet []. There is a good page of resources at the Colossal Cave Adventure page [].

--The Jargon File version 4.4.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk, updated by Apatrix.

The beginning of the Christian liturgical year, Advent consists of the four Sundays before Christmas. The color of the Advent season is purple, and many churches and households light the candles of an Advent wreath each Sunday, and some decorate a Jesse Tree.

Advent begins in darkness, says Fleming Rutledge in her book The Bible and the New York Times. Through the Bible passages we read during this season we live in two times at once: the time before the light of Christ has come into the world through the event at Bethlehem, and also in the present day, where we look for His return.

In both eras we find the same anguished question: Where is God? We look at the suffering, the injustice, the violence and death that fill our lives and we wonder if God is even paying attention. When, if ever, will it end? Does He plan to do anything to help us, or is grief and loss all we have to look forward to till we go to our graves and become dust?

I have on my desk a handout from my church with the readings from the third Sunday in Advent on it. The collect begins, Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come upon us. The first reading is from Isaiah: Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf be unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

The Psalmist sings of the God ...who gives justice to the oppressed, and food to those who hunger. The apostle James counsels his flock, The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

And then there is the reading from the Gospel of Matthew, in which John the Baptist, in chains and soon to be executed, sends his disciples to ask Jesus a question: Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another? This passage always makes my heart ache. All the countless years of human suffering lie behind John's plea. At times when God seems silent when we need Him most, and impossibly far away, we almost dare not hope that the answer might be yes.

"Go and tell John what you hear and see," Jesus answers them. "The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them."

God hears, and He responds. We yearn for His coming, and although we are in darkness, we see there is a light up ahead. Whether it's near or far away we cannot tell; but there is a light.

Well, the end of the year is nigh, and I’m simply overjoyed by the warm holiday spirit. Even though I can’t afford a tree, can’t really walk well, and have no extant close family, I’m full of joy at the radiant faces of children, the numerous photographs of holiday dinners, and the many wonderful songs that bring back happy memories. I cannot help but feel wonder at the many lavish GIFs and JPEGs of gorgeous skinny young people enjoying cocktails at elegant parties. Still, I might feel just a little sad at the horrid commercialization that plagues what is supposed to be a time for —well, whatever it is that all the Christmas specials (bar one) are hinting at. But that is soon forgotten, since it’s Christmas time!

Fat chance. 

No, it’s not that my SSI got cut by over $200 when my redetermination  came up. Or that I don’t have a family or friends to celebrate with, especially. It’s that it’s just not Christmas. 


Somehow, we’ve gotten into a weird pattern whereby we have to a) shop b) cook, bake and decorate, c) carry on normal business as usual and d) celebrate all at the same time. No wonder people feel let down come the afternoon of the day itself, when, after having eaten the Nth oversized meal, consumed the Nth cup of eggnog (glowwine, Tom & Jerry, “it” fashionable tipple) and witnessed various family dramas fueled with white sugar, alcohol and dashed hopes, the whole idea of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year seems like a bad joke. 

It’s not hard to figure out why this is. Every year, the notion of what constitutes “The Holiday Season” gets more and more murky as every store vies to get in those Christmas dollars sooner than the next one. It’s strange to think, but up until the Seventies, the idea of slashing prices before Christmas was almost heretical — people were feeling emotionally blackmailed into spending money, the thought went, so everything was either full price or a little above what you’d pay during the year. Then, after Christmas, some places would keep up their decorations for the Twelve Days, some would not, but all the prices would plunge. Since we’re also celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, and Yule, there’s even more of a reason why it’s kind of unclear what is and is not “the Holidays”. 

Helpful magazines, you know, the kind that have Christmas centerpieces for your kitchen island and a new “old family custom” every year (“Treat your kids to a Christmas Piñata!”, “Leave snowy footprints in the living room!”, “Set out cheese for the Christmas Mouse!”) always end up complicating things. Mind you, I lived once in a Swedish-American family where every room in the house had to have something Christmassy in it, and whose stock of decorations lived in a few boxes the size of a small apartment. We got everything up in two days of concentrated hard work, since a lot of it was erm, nonperishable. Now, if you don’t have sustainably sourced natural boughs, plus whatever mechanical/musical/joke/"cute" decor item ("Singin' Dancing Elvis Reindeer!" "Shelf Elf with moving eyes!") is IN this year, every single year, you lose your Brownie points. 

At the same time, you hear all kinds of pleas for money for good works, “healthy”, “guilt-free”, alternatives for celebrating, and all kinds of ways to make public ideological statements to soothe your aching conscience that you’re, after all, doing the right thing. Remember the needy. Have an eco-friendly celebration. Consider a “virtual” gathering with far-flung relatives, by using Skype, to lessen your carbon footprint, and save on unrecyclable paper cards. No wonder people are left feeling confused.

The last act in this play is January, when you’re at least on paper, recovering and and repenting of your sins during the last month through resolutions (that don’t stick), Alcohol-free month, and the Daniel Fast, which is Lent for the NIV set.

There is another possibility, however, which allows for both pious peace of mind and orgies of joy, to wit: become an Advent keeper. 

Now, I won’t pretend that switching is easy or fun. This is hard-core Christianity, and doesn’t lend itself to  much in the way of cuteness. However, if you’d like to radically restart the season in your heart, if nothing else, this is the way to do it. 

The themes of the Four Sundays of Advent are called the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell, marking both the end and the beginning of the liturgical year. (I told you this was hardcore.) You should fast, or do without, for these four weeks, just like Lent.  It might seem to be a little counterintuitive, and even a bit morbid, to be obsessing about death and judgment at a time when modern logic tells you should be celebrating Joy, Peace, Love and Praise or some equivalent. 

The reason is medieval logic. While the modern American “holiday cycle” is a) a gradual buildup of anticipatory marketing, b) wanton consumption, accompanied by agonizing pangs of guilt and depression, and c) repentance (through gym visits, ideological posturing and juice cleanses), the classic medieval cycle goes a) Purification, through prayer, preparation, and fasting, b)getting drunk and stuffed and giving stuff away, just because you can, and c) a gradual regression back into Ordinary Time, at which point you’re pretty glad to be rid of the whole thing. This jibes well with modern psychology: if you’ve shopped well at a grocery store, you might feel like adding a little candy while on line at the cash register. If you’ve managed to go some time without your particular ruin, you feel like splurging the next time you have it. 

Lacking a medieval village, and probably not even a sympathetic church nearby, Advent can be anything from a full-bore delving into The Tree of Jesse to a dark celebration of all things Eternal  to a gentle, New Age period of waiting and preparation. That said, there are a few milestones along the way. 
Colors are on the cool side of the spectrum: muted blues and purples, black,  and touches of hot pink or rose. Greens (bought without bows, and other decorations) and gradually decorated with miniature apples and pears, gold-tinted things, and the like. Put up all the other decorations (if you wish) a little at a time. Ditch that Advent Calendar which gets you one measly chocolate a day, and get one that decorates your tree!

On Christmas Eve, the forces of Death and Evil make one last stand, in the form of ghost stories (that’s the reason why “A Christmas Carol” is about ghosts, not angels). Muahahahaha. Watch your favorite “A Christmas Carol”, or try the BBC series Ghost Stories for Christmas. Tim Burton may be overplayed, but he fills the bill admirably. 

Wake up and rejoice! It’s Christmas time! While everyone else is feeling down and rueful, you’re supercharged! Invite everybody to a party, go out in Christmas garb, treat yourself and others every single one of the Twelve Days! 

You can see how this lends to creativity  and considerable interpretation. You can play it pious, or simply “spiritual”. While other people are fretting over last-minute details for a party, you’re volunteering, or taking a late-fall hike, or doing yoga. While others are feeling guilty about every drop of eggnog and crumb of wheat-based canapé, you’re doing a detox, or reading a 17th century divine.   While lesser mortals mope listening to minor-keyed 40’s pop (“White Christmas”, “Have yourself a Merry…”, “I’ll be home for Christmas”) or some deplorable moderninity like The Cat Carol you’re listening to Norwegian Black Metal (Just don’t burn any churches…) and switching to full-bore Hallelujahs the second after midnight December 24. 

Which is going to confuse everybody. Yes, it is truly subversive. Why you were so calm, so good, and now want to spend twelve days overeating and acting like you’re God’s own tot, and don’t feel at any way guilty at the end of all this, is going to upend everyone’s ideas of the season.

Disadvantages of being an Advent Keeper: 

  1. You’ll completely confuse everyone who starts saying “Merry Christmas” in November. Smile nicely, and say, “not yet”. Same is true of “Happy New Year”, which should be tabooed until 12 midnight, 1 January. Then you greet everyone for the first time that year that way.
  2. The Office Christmas party is Out, unless you can somehow persuade the Social Committee that you aren’t spending the week “with the family”, and would rather spend it with workmates instead. 
  3. You’ll have to try and tune out most media and advertising. Consider buying gifts throughout the year, when you have more time and less pressure. Cook ahead and don't cheat. Record all the Very Special Episodes, play them back during the Twelve Days.
  4. You’ll completely confuse people who start talking about resolutions the week before Christmas, since you’re already doing all that.

Advantages of being an Advent Keeper
  1. If the Dark Days make you mopey, you can mope. You have permission to mope all you want, because, instead of committing suicide,  you’re going to be stopping moping at midnight December 24.You’re going to be a lot less stressed out. You’re going to be focussed on other people, then yourself, in due measure.
  2. You’ll find that celebrating is less wanton. Instead of rock ’n’ rolling every night, and partying every day (while pulling in a paycheck, preparing for The Event, and feeling vaguely guilty throughout the whole thing) you actually feel justified, taking that extra drink, having a little more than usual. After all, you lost x pounds, when you fasted two days a week, and went totally vegan in between! Plus, you're already used to wanting less. If you go to bed every night at seven, nine o' clock is going to feel like decadence.
  3. As alluded to before, you’re going to feel relieved, not let down, when it’s over. St. Distaff’s Day, for ladies, and Plough Day, for gentlemen, you’re going to feel almost as if you’re celebrating all over again, as you put party clothes into the closet, your decorating into storage, and finally get started on that minor repair that’s been nagging at you for a month, and finally eat something ordinary for a change. At least until Carnival...
  4. And you’re going to look forward to it again, next year. 

Ad`vent (#), n. [L. adventus, fr. advenire, adventum: cf. F. avent. See Advene.]

1. Eccl.

The period including the four Sundays before Christmas.

Advent Sunday Eccl., the first Sunday in the season of Advent, being always the nearest Sunday to the feast of St. Andrew (Now. 30).



The first or the expected second coming of Christ.


Coming; any important arrival; approach.

Death's dreadful advent. Young.

Expecting still his advent home. Tennyson.


© Webster 1913.

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