Christian Festivals
Everyone has heard of Easter and Christmas. Most people think they know what they are about, but there is more to them than most people imagine. Then there are the less well known festivals. Take a look at the list below to find out more. For Saints Days, see our .


Advent           The four preceeding sundays before Christmas. Precise date determined by the fourth sunday before Christmas. Advent is the festival that reminds us of Christs coming. Christmas of course is the festival of Christs's coming as a child. Which is why the dates of Advent are determined by the day of the week Christmas falls upon.
Advent 1 (the first sunday in Advent) remembers the Advent Hope, the desire of God's faithful for the coming. Advent 2 remembers the word of God in the Old Testament, where throughout history God promises that one day the Christ will come.
Advent 3 remembers the forerunner, John the Baptist, who prepared 'the way' for the Christ to come.
Advent 4 celebrates the Annunciation, where an angel (God's messenger Gabriel) told Mary about the soon to happen events.

All Saints Day        Date: 1st November. The festival where we remember the saints in general and the contribution they have made altogether to the cause of Christianity. Also to remember the Communion of Saints, and the collective continual prayers they offer (remember there is life after death!) in heaven.

All Souls Day         Date: 2nd November. The festival where we remember those of our friends and family who have departed this life and the contribution they have made to the Christian faith, very often by their influence on our beliefs.

Ascension              Date: Variable, but the Thursday 40 days after Easter. The festival that remembers that the Risen Christ, who had been with the disciples since rising from the dead, Ascended into heaven to be at the right hand of God. Heaven is not 'above' as the word might imply. Jesus did not have rocket powered sandals. Heaven is a higher state, but we are not talking about altitude. Jesus went to be with God and hence ascended into a higher state. 'Higher' in a similar sense as the Managing Director of a business is 'higher' than the receptionist - nothing to do with height above sea level!

Ash Wednesday        Date: Variable, but always 40 days prior to Holy Saturday. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. The faithful are marked in the sign of a cross by the priest who uses ash to mark a cross on their foreheads. The priest uses the words: "Man, from ash you came and to ash you will return" to remind us of the state of mankind and to start off our remembering of Lent.

Christmas               Date 25th December. (7th January in Eastern Churches). Christmas is NOT Christs birthday. The best scientific reckoning (based on historic study of the orbit of the planet and planetary system) estimates it is sometime in the month we now call April. In early Christian times the Church in Rome decided on a date to hold a Mass (hence Christ-Mass or Christmas) to celebrate the coming of Jesus, the Christ as a child. The date was chosen to coincide with the Roman winter festival of Saturnalia, and to smother it out. Christmas has of course grown in popularity and done just that. Chosen on the 25th of the tenth month (our calendars have changed since then, with two extra months having been added). Dec means ten, hence december was the tenth month in the old calendar. The other main church headquarters of the time, Constantinople, chose a different date to hold their Christ-Mass hence the Eastern churches use of 7th January. Although the date is arbitary, the events celebrated are not and are a part of the most profound series of events ever.

Corpus Christi        Date: Variable, but always the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Corpus Christi is a festival to celebrate the fact the Christ left us the chance to re-live the Last Supper, the Eucharist. Corpus Christi means 'the body of Christ'. This is a festival to give thanks for the sacrament we can now hold to get close to Jesus, and remain close to Him. Without this sacrament, perhaps the most important of all sacraments, our faith would be much, much weaker.

Easter                     Date: Variable. Determined by Lunar calendar.
The festival celebrating Christs resurrection. The term Easter also refers to the 'season' in which this occurs, (because Good Friday is 'part'or Easter, as is Holy Saturday). When we say Easter we usually mean Easter Day: always a Sunday, the day we choose to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and His triumphant victory over death and sin, not only for himself, but also for us and everybody who ever has lived or who has yet to be born. Many countries today give and receive Easter Eggs, the egg being a symbol of 'new life', referring to the New Life we all now can have because of Jesus' resurrection.

Ember Days        Any of the days traditionally reserved for fasting and prayer. Now often used in religious communities and seminaries in preparation for ordinations.

Epiphany                 Date: 6th January.
The festival when we remember that the wise men, the Magi, visited Jesus when he was a baby, having seen his coming astrologically (saw him in the stars). Biblical accounts tell of a bright star which lead them to where Jesus was. Interestingly, modern astronomers have found that a very bright comet would have been visible to the naked eye in that part of the sky at that time. The Magi saw this and took it as a message from God that the expected Messiah would make His appearance. Traditionally we think of three wise men, but there is no biblical evidence of the number of wise men so possibly this is an assumption because each brought gifts, and three gifts (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh) are mentioned. We also remember that Herod's plan to kill Jesus was frustrated when the Magi returned to their land without having told Herod of the baby's whereabouts.

Good Friday            Date: Variable, always the Friday prior to Easter Sunday. I often wonder why this is called 'Good' Friday when it is the festival when we remember Jesus being put to death in excruciation on a cross. However, without this ultimate of ultimate sacrifices, good would not have overcome evil; so I assume that this is why it is so named. Friday is chosen because 
when the execution of Jesus took place it was the day before the Jewish Sabbath (being saturday).

Lent                          Dates: Variable, but Lent is the forty days beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday. Lent is a memorial of the days Jesus spent in the desert preparing himself for the coming events. Jesus spent 40 days alone 'in the wilderness', going without, and away from the temptations of everyday life. Scripture tells us that the devil turned up to try and spoil this time of preparation. Early Christians and some pious ones today include limited or not so limited fasting in this period. Lent for most Christians today is a period of reflection and to help with that vow some go without something to help in their contemplations.


Maundy Thursday
        Date: Variable, but always the day before Good Friday This festival reminds us that Jesus turned and served his disciples by washing their feet. He was showing them that no matter how great you are, you are to serve, as opposed to be served upon. In England, the monarch washes the feet of several ordinary people in a re-inactment of this on this day.
Catholic bishops hold Chrism Mass on this day.

Michaelmas
             Date: 29th September. A feast celebrating the contribution of St Michael. This is more than a saints day though. This was the date of a Mass the church regularly held to remember the angels, all of God's messengers. Michael is regarded as an archangel, as well as the saint who prays for and holds in memorial all the angels. This is why many churches named after him are called things like: "St Michael and All Angels".

Palm Sunday          Date: The Sunday before Easter. Celebrating Christs entry into Jerusalem when the people waved palm leaves and sang, chanted and welcomed Jesus as he entererd the holy city on a donkey as the Old Testament scripture predicted the messiah would. The people had an anticipation and excitement that we try to re-capture in our Palm Sunday service, and palm leaves or branches are waved by the congegation.


Pentecost               Date: Variable, also called Whitsun. This is the festival that remembers and praises God for, the sending of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the agent of God that lifts and enables, giving Christians the power to do God's work, and the means to be able to worship Him at all times, in all circumstances, just by thinking about it. Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit as He was ascended. Many churches place very great store on the spirit and the gifts of the spirit. These churches often refer to themsleves as Pentecostal. All churches of course, hold the Spirit very highly. The old name for the Holy Spirit was Holy Ghost.


Remembrance Sunday        Date: the Sunday nearest 11th November. Not exclusively a Christian festival, but a day to remember those who have died in protecting us and our freedoms in wars and armed conflicts etc. I include it in this list because it is so widely recognised by Christian churches and congregations. It is without doubt universally recognised.


Shrove Tuesday        Date: Variable, but the day before Ash Wednesday. As this is the last 'ordinary' day before the time of Lent which is associated with soem level of fasting or going without, early Christians would clear their food cupboards, cooking everything up and eating it. Today we eat pancakes to remember this. This day is also called 'Pancake Day'.


Trinity Sunday         Date: Variable, but the next Sunday after Whit Sunday.
The festival of celebrating the concept of Trinity, the way God is manifest in the Father (God creator of all), the Son (Jesus, the Son of God or the Son of Man), and the Spirit (the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised would be sent on the disciples and whose coming is celebrated at Pentecost).

Whitsun                    Date: Variable, also called Pentecost. The name comes from 'White Sunday' the implication being pure and Holy. See Pentecost above.