Church festivals

The majority of Christian festivals are based on a special moment or event in the life of Jesus. These festivals help Christians remember the story of his life, but they also draw attention to their religious significance.

The events surrounding the birth of Jesus are very important for Christians and they are remembered by celebrating Advent and Christmas. In some churches, Epiphany is also an important festival.

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The Christian year is a twelve month cycle. It does not begin in January like a traditional calendar. It begins with Advent, the four week period leading up to Christmas.

Different churches put different emphases on the Christian calendar. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church keeps a very full calendar, observing a great many feasts and saints’ days. Some Protestant churches, on the other hand, keep a much simpler calendar with only the major festivals being observed. Some evangelical Churches ignore the traditional Christian calendar completely, except for Christmas and Easter.

Festivals, too many or too few?

Here are some of the reasons for having a full church calendar and remembering many festivals:

  • Festivals help Christians to have a sense of tradition and history.
  • Marking a special event on a particular day means you are less likely to forget the occasion.
  • Having a calendar keeps you organised and structured.

On the other hand, there are arguments for not observing a full calendar:

  • Festivals can be a distraction from true worship.
  • There is no Christian calendar in the Bible.
  • Christmas and Easter are good examples of how celebrations can become more important than the religious beliefs behind the festival.
  • It is important to remember the birth and death of Jesus all through the year, not just at Christmas and Easter.

The purpose of festivals

Here are some of the reasons why people celebrate Christian festivals:

  • To remember – most Christian festivals are based on a special moment or event in the life of Jesus. These festivals help Christians to remember the religious importance or significance of these events.
  • To mark the seasons of the year – some Christian festivals replaced pagan festivals which marked important times of the year. For example, 25 December was associated with the pagan festival which marked the beginning of the longer hours of daylight, while Easter replaced a spring festival associated with the pagan goddess Eostre.
  • To celebrate – festivals are a time to stop routine activities and perhaps have a rest or some fun. In medieval times, religious festivals were the only days people had off from work.