Seasons & Holy Days
The Episcopal Church recognizes seasons and holy days that mark important events surrounding the life and death of our Lord Jesus and how these events shape our beliefs and help us live a Christian life. These are listed below.
In addition there are many other notable dates on the Liturgical Calendar of the Episcopal Church.
Advent – As with many Christian Churches, Advent is the beginning of the Church year. Advent is a season and consists of the 4 Sundays preceding Christmas Day. The first Sunday of Advent falls on the last Sunday of November or the first Sunday of December. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation for the birth of our Lord.
Christmas – December 25, the celebration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Epiphany – January 6, (12 Days after Christmas). Also known as “Three Kings Day.” Epiphany is an ancient church festival celebrating the magi’s visit to the Christ Child.
Ash Wednesday – Marks the first day of Lent and is determined by counting backwards from Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday) and can occur as early as February 4, or as late as March 10. It derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday. The ashes are then ceremonially placed on the forehead as a visible cross and accompanied by words based on Genesis 3:19, “for you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Lent – Christians have desired to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection at Easter through a period of fasting and prayer that mirrors the 40 days that Christ spent in the desert at the beginning of His ministry. However, Sundays during Lent are not included in the count. Therefore, Lent begins 46 days before Holy Saturday.
Palm Sunday – Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, and commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified. The service often includes the congregation carrying palms which represent the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem.
Holy Week – Begins with Palm Sunday and ends after Easter Vigil.
Maundy Thursday – The Thursday before Easter and commemorates the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. Maundy means ‘command’, and refers to one of the things Jesus said to his disciples: ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ (John 13:34)
Good Friday – The Friday before Easter Sunday. On this day we commemorate the passion, or suffering and death on the cross of the Lord, Jesus Christ. It is “good” because that is the day that we celebrate and honor the fact that Jesus Christ chose to die for our sins.
Holy Saturday – The final day of Lent. It commemorates the day that Jesus Christ lay in the tomb after his death. In the evening, the first celebration of Easter known as the Great Vigil of Easter is often celebrated.
Easter – The first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox*. If the first full moon occurs on the equinox, Easter is the following Sunday. Thus, Easter can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.
*The “vernal” equinox (the beginning of spring) falls on March 20, for the Northern Hemisphere.
Pentecost – Pentecost means “fifty” and occurs fifty days after Easter. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. It is also known as “the birthday of the church” and is usually represented with the color red, which symbolizes the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Ordinary Time – Ordinary time can be understood in terms of the living out of Christian faith and the meaning of Christ’s resurrection in ordinary life. The term “ordinary time” is not used in the Prayer Book, but the season after Pentecost until the day before the first Sunday of Advent can be considered ordinary time. It may be referred to as the “green season,” because green is the usual liturgical color for this period of the church year.
All Saints Day – November 1, a festival that is celebrated in honor of all the saints, known and unknown.