Advent – the four weeks leading up to Christmas – is, in general, a gaudy time: lots of bright lights and colourful decorations. But originally it was a penitential season. Except for one Sunday. The third Sunday of Advent. Which was today. That Sunday is, by definition, gaudy.
OK, well, it’s Gaude. Or, in the plural (since gaude is the singular imperative), Gaudete Sunday. Or, as many Anglicans and Roman Catholics call it, pink candle Sunday.
An Advent wreath has four candles in a ring. Three of those candles are purple (technically violet or blue), but one of them – the third one to be lit – is pink (technically rose-coloured). That signifies that you can take a break from your solemn penitence (everyone’s being solemn and penitent, right? right?) and rejoice! Gaudete! You in particular, gaude! Be both godly and gaudy!
And yes, that’s no coincidence The Latin verb gaudere means ‘rejoice’ or ‘make merry’, and its noun form gaudium means ‘joy’, and it has given English its noun gaud meaning ‘trick, prank’ or ‘plaything’ or ‘ornament’ as well as its adjective gaudy, meaning, of course, ‘flashy, showy, brightly coloured, happy’ – but pronounced after the English fashion, rhyming with bawdy rather than, to match the Latin, rowdy.
Of course what is gaudy can be bawdy or rowdy, but it would be unseemly to be either in the context of holy rejoicing. You can have the gaudy, bawdy, rowdy flash and trash of the shopping mall as the holiday shopping season ramps up, but if you feel like something a little less lucrative and ludicrous, a little more to the gaudete, you can always pause in a peaceful place to light a pink candle and listen to (or sing) a bit of happy music. For those who want, here’s a nice song (a bit early, by the lyrics, but so what, it’s Latin):