Seasonal Celebration

The Church marks the life of Jesus by a series of special celebrations throughout the course of the year, Christmas and Easter being the best known of them.  Follow the links below to find out more about the meaning behind each successive season.

Other seasonal occasions may also be celebrated such as Valentine’s Day, Mothering Sunday, or a ‘Christianised’ version of Halloween.

The Church Year

Advent

Advent marks the commencement of the Church year and opens on Advent Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. Traditionally it is a time of fasting and is a ‘penitential’ season, hence the liturgical colour being purple.

Christmas

Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. By tradition, the Christmas season is re­garded as consisting of twelve days, and ends with the Epiphany. The liturgies of this period are woven around the infancy nar­ratives from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, together with all those passages that were seen to anticipate the incarnation in the Old Testament and expound its significance in the New. It remains the most widely ob­served of all Christian feasts, perhaps be­cause this festival combines human need for a party to enliven the gloom of midwinter, the natural human response to child­birth, and the message of ‘Immanuel’ – ‘God with us’. It was a stroke of sheer pastoral genius to Christianize the pagan mid­winter festival in this way. The midnight Eucharist of Christmas is probably the most commonly attended of all liturgical observances.

Epiphany

The Epiphany – a Greek word meaning “Manifestation” or “Showing forth” – is an ancient Christian feast day and is significant in a number of ways. In the East, where it originated, the Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. It also celebrates Jesus’ birth. Thus the Eastern Church sees the Epiphany as being revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ The Western Church began celebrating the Epiphany in the 4th century where it was, and still is, associated with the visit of the magi (wise men) to the infant Jesus when God revealed himself to the Gentile world through the incarnation of Jesus. According to Matthew 2:11 they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts were symbolic of Jesus’ kingship (gold), priesthood (frankincense) and his death (myrrh). The season of Epiphany extends from 6 January until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter.

Lent

The period of forty days, not counting Sundays, immediately before Easter Sunday. This is a penitential period traditionally marked by fasting. Lent commences on Ash Wednesday and concludes with Holy Week with special services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Easter

The Easter season last for the forty day period between Easter Sunday and the eve of the Ascension. Easter itself commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is the most important of the Christian festivals. It vies with Christmas as being the one celebrated with the greatest joy. The date of Easter changes each year, and the dates of several other festivals are fixed by reference to it. On Easter Sunday churches are filled with flowers, and there are special hymns and songs. But not all Easter customs are Christian; some, such as the Easter Bunny, are Pagan in origin. The Easter story is at the heart of Christianity On Good Friday, Jesus Christ was executed by crucifixion. His body was taken down from the cross, and buried in a cave. The tomb was guarded and an enormous stone was put over the entrance, so that no-one could steal the body. On the following Sunday, some women visited the grave and found that the stone had been moved, and that the tomb was empty. Jesus himself was seen that day, and for days afterwards by many people. His followers realised that God had raised Jesus from the dead.

Ascension

This marks the day on which Jesus finally left this earthly realm and ‘ascended’ into heaven. The season commences on the feast of the Ascension, which falls on a Thursday forty days after Easter, and lasts until the eve of Whitsunday (or Pentecost) – a mere ten days in length.

Pentecost (Whitsun)

Lasting for just one week the season of Pentecost is the shortest season in the Christian calendar. The day itself, though, is of great importance as it marks the ‘birthday’ of the Church in that it celebrates the time when the apostles and the early disciples were imbued with the gift of the Holy Spirit and enabled to go out ‘into all the world’ to proclaim the good news.

Trinity

This season is the balance of the year from Trinity Sunday until the following Advent Sunday. This is a period during which the lectionary readings Sunday by Sunday follow the growth of the early Church and apply the Christian message to every aspect of life.