Christian Holidays 2008

Tuesday 1 January:

Circumcision: Marks the day when Jesus was circumcised. Festival of St Basil the Great: St Basil is one of the great fathers of the Orthodox Church.

Sunday 6 January:

Christmas Day (Armenian Orthodox): Armenian Christians celebrate Christ's birth at Epiphany, except for Armenians in the Holy Land, who celebrate Christmas on January 19th. Theophany: Orthodox churches mark the baptism of Jesus on this day. Epiphany: Celebrates the visit of the wise men (the magi) to the infant Jesus. In the East, where it originated, the Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. (Catholics and Episcopalians celebrate this separately: see Baptism of the Lord) Also known as Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day).

Monday 7 January:

Christmas Day (Orthodox): Most Orthodox churches use the Julian rather than the Gregorian version of the Western calendar. As a result, they celebrate Christmas 13 days later than other Christian churches.

Sunday 13 January:

St Hilary's Day: According to tradition, "St. Hilary's is the coldest day of the year." St. Hilary was a fourth century Bishop of Poitiers. Baptism of the Lord: Commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. Occurs on the first Sunday after Epiphany. Catholics and Episcopalians celebrate this holy day, but Eastern Christianity celebrates the baptism of Jesus at Epiphany.

Friday 18 January:

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (start): First celebrated in 1908. The days of 18-25 January (regardless of the days of the week involved) were originally chosen because they covered the days between the feast of St Peter and the feast of St Paul. Some churches and regions use a different week.

Monday 21 January:

St Agnes: Patron saint of girls, martyred at the age of 13.

Friday 25 January:

St Paul's Day: Anglicans and Catholics celebrate St Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus.

Monday 28 January:

St Thomas Aquinas: Doctor of the Church and patron saint of students and theologians.

Saturday 2 February:

Candlemas: This is often called The Presentation of Christ in the Temple and commemorates the day Mary took Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem to present him to God. Coincides with Groundhog Day (USA).

Tuesday 5 February:

Shrove Tuesday: Also called Pancake Day and Mardi Gras. The British name of "Pancake Day" comes from the tradition of making pancakes to use up all the food that could not be eaten during Lent.

Wednesday 6 February:

Ash Wednesday: The first day of Lent for Western Christian churches. Lent is the season marking the time Jesus spent in the wilderness.

Monday 11 February:

Our Lady of Lourdes: Marks the day in 1858 when St Bernadette had her first vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Thursday 14 February:

St Valentine's Day: Now more a secular festival than a religious one. There are at least three different saints named Valentine.

Saturday 1 March:

St David's Day: Saint David, or Dewi Sant as he's called in the Welsh language, is the patron saint of Wales.

Sunday 2 March:

Mothering Sunday: Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Not the same as Mothers' Day in the USA.

Wednesday 5 March:

St Piran's Day: Piran is regarded as the patron saint of Cornwall and tin miners. He was born in Ireland. The Cornish flag may have been inspired by the legend that Piran discovered the process for smelting tin: black rock with a white cross of pure metal.

Monday 10 March:

Clean Monday - Beginning of Lent (Orthodox): The start of the "Great Lent" for Orthodox Christians. This day is called Clean Monday, and occurs seven weeks before the Orthodox Easter.

Sunday 16 March:

Palm Sunday: The sixth and last Sunday of Lent. Marks the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the start of Holy Week.

Monday 17 March:

St Patrick's Day: St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.

Thursday 20 March:

Maundy Thursday: Christians remember Maundy Thursday as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as the Eucharist.

Friday 21 March:

Good Friday: Good Friday is the Friday before Easter. It commemorates the execution of Jesus by crucifixion.

Sunday 23 March:

Easter Sunday (Western): Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ - his return from death after the Crucifixion. The most important Christian festival. Most years Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on a different date.

Tuesday 25 March:

Annunciation: Marks the angel Gabriel's message to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to the incarnation of Christ. It also celebrates the incarnation itself as the date falls 9 months before Christmas.

Wednesday 23 April:

St George's Day: Saint George is the patron saint of England.

Sunday 27 April:

Easter (Orthodox): Orthodox Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ - his return from death after the Crucifixion. The most important Christian festival.

Thursday 1 May:

Ascension Day: Ascension Day marks the last earthly appearance of Christ after his resurrection. Christians believe Christ ascended into heaven. It is celebrated 40 days after Easter.

Sunday 4 May:

Ascension Day (Catholic Church in England and Wales): Ascension Day is normally celebrated 40 days after Easter. The Catholic Church in England and Wales celebrates it on the following Sunday instead.

Sunday 11 May:

Pentecost - Whitsun: The seventh Sunday after Easter, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and the birth of the Christian Church.

Sunday 18 May:

All Saints' Day (Orthodox):This day honours all saints, known and unknown, of the Christian church. Western churches celebrate All Saints Day on November 1. Trinity Sunday: The first Sunday after Pentecost. Christians meditate on the nature of God as "Three in one".

Sunday 25 May:

Corpus Christi: Roman Catholic festival celebrating the "real presence of Christ in the Eucharist". The festival falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Corpus Christi (Catholic Church in England and Wales): Corpus Christi falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. The Catholic Church in England and Wales celebrates it on the following Sunday instead.

Sunday 29 June:

St Peter's Day: Observed by Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. One of the oldest saints' days.

Tuesday 15 July:

St Swithin's Day: Swithin was a Saxon bishop in the 9th century. Legend has it that the weather on his feast day, 15 July, will determine the weather for the next 40 days.

Wednesday 6 August:

Transfiguration: Orthodox Christian feast commemorating the sudden emanation of radiance from the person of Jesus that occurred on the mountain.

Friday 15 August:

Dormition of the Theotokos: An Orthodox festival that commemorates the death, resurrection, and glorification of Christ's mother. Dormition means "falling asleep". Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: A largely Roman Catholic festival celebrating their belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken body and soul into heaven.

Monday 8 September:

Nativity of the Theotokos: Orthodox Christians celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Roman Catholics celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary. Feast of the Birth of Mary: Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches celebrate the birth of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Monday 13 October:

St Edward's Day: Edward the Confessor was King of England 1042 - 1066. He built Westminster Abbey where there is a shrine to him - and where the saint is also celebrated on January 5 each year, the anniversary of his death.

Friday 31 October:

Hallowe'en (All Hallows' Eve): The night before All Saints' Day (All Hallows' Day). Its origins date back over 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. It was celebrated as a Christian festival by the 8th Century.

Saturday 1 November:

All Saints' Day (Hallowmas, All Hallows'): All Saints' Day (also known as All Hallows' Day or Hallowmas) is when Anglicans and Roman Catholics honour all saints, known and unknown, of the Christian church. Orthodox churches celebrate it on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

Sunday 2 November:

All Souls' Day: All Souls' Day is an opportunity for Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic churches to commemorate the faithful departed. They remember and pray for the souls of people who are in Purgatory. All Souls' Day is celebrated on 3 November if the 2nd is a Sunday. All Saints' Day (Catholic Church in England and Wales): The Catholic Church in England and Wales moves this festival to the nearest Sunday if it falls on a Saturday or Monday.

Sunday 30 November:

Advent Sunday: The beginning of the ecclesiastical year on the Sunday closest to November 30. Advent is the season before Christmas - In Western Christendom, four Sundays are included. In Eastern Christendom, the season is longer and begins in the middle of November. St Andrew's Day: Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, Greece and Russia. The flag of Scotland is the Cross of St. Andrew. St Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was originally a fisherman and became the first Apostle.

Monday 8 December:

Feast of the Immaculate Conception: Celebrated by Roman Catholics who remember Mary's conception as being without sin, therefore, immaculate.

Saturday 13 December:

St Lucy's Day: Saint Lucy's feast day is marked by Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind. She was a virgin martyr who lived in Sicily during the third century.

Wednesday 24 December:

Christmas Eve: The day before Christmas Day

Thursday 25 December:

Christmas Day: The day when Western Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Friday 26 December:

St Stephen's Day: St Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is celebrated on this day by Roman Catholics. The day is also called the Feast of Stephen.

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