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The Church (or Christian) Year

The Christian Year

Pages in this section
Advent | Christmas | Epiphany | Candlemas | Lent | Ash Wednesday | Mothering Sunday | Palm Sunday | Maundy Thursday | Good Friday | Holy Saturday | Easter | Ascension Day | Pentecost | Trinity | St James's Day | Harvest Festival | All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day | Remembrance Sunday

Clergy stoles worn during Ordinary TimeThe Church, or Christian, year celebrates different parts of the Christian faith during the course of twelve months, dividing the year into a series of seasons. These are Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. The rest of the year is referred to as ‘Ordinary Time’ as there is no specific focus for celebration. The Christian year also consists of Saints Days, Festival and Holy Days. These seasons and days make up the Christian calendar.

The seasons
Each season has its own mood, theological emphasis, etc, which is shown in different ways of decorating churches, colours used, scriptural readings, themes for preaching and so on. See the way St James's is coloured on the page Colours of the Christian Year. The scripture passages for each Sunday (and even each day of the year in some traditions) are specified by a list called a lectionary.  Find out about Lectionaries on the Church of England's page Lectionaries.

Clergy robes worn during Lent and AdventThe seasons in the Christian Year follow the life of Jesus a bit like a story:
 The story actually begins in Advent, at the very end of November, when we prepare for the birth of Jesus.
 This is followed by Christmas when Jesus was born. 
 Epiphany follows when the Wise Men (or kings, or Magi) came to visit Jesus.
 After Epiphany we carry on following his life through to the preparation for his passion (suffering) in Lent and death on the cross in Holy Week.
 We then learn about his resurrection from the dead at Easter.
His resurrection is followed by his Ascension into Heaven.
 The Christian Year then looks at how the Church came about and developed, with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
 Lastly we learn about the Trinity, and we then concentrate on learning more about our faith.

In addition to the above special days, there are others which we celebrate at St James's:
 Candlemas 
 St James's Day
 Harvest Festival 
 All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day
 Remembrance Sunday

Christmas at St James'sThe festivals
Find out about different special days:
Advent | Christmas | Epiphany | Candlemas | Lent | Ash Wednesday | Mothering Sunday | Palm Sunday | Maundy Thursday | Good Friday | Holy Saturday | Easter | Ascension Day | Pentecost | Trinity | St James's Day | Harvest Festival | All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day | Remembrance Sunday

Some festivals, like Christmas Day, happen on the same date every year, while others, like Easter, move around within a range of dates because the Christian calendar grew out of both the Jewish and the Roman calendars. In the past, the Jews were a nomadic (wandering) people. The moon became very important to them as they often travelled at night, so they gradually based their calendar on its phases. The first great Christian festivals developed from Jewish ones and the Christian Church developed under the Roman Empire which followed a calendar controlled by the sun, a 'solar' calendar. When the Church began to introduce festivals of its own, they fixed them on dates already in the Roman calendar. The Christian calendar is therefore a dual one, with 'fixed' feasts based on the Roman 'solar' calendar, and 'moveable' ones based on the Jewish 'lunar' calendar. 

Find out about Festivals and Holy Days on the Church of England's page The calendar.