Everyone is familiar with Easter and Christmas, but not everyone is familiar with the other important celebrations of the Catholic Church throughout the year. In this article, I will detail all of the important celebrations of the Catholic Calendar, as well as its unique features.
The holiest days in the Catholic calendar are called “solemnities”. While there are many other feast days, these are considered to be the most important.
Note that the Catholic year begins at the beginning of December, not in January.
The Immaculate Conception (December 8th): Like Eve, Mary, the second Eve, was conceived without original sin, according to Catholics. This feast celebrates her conception without sin.
The Nativity (December 25th): The Nativity or “Christmas” as it is usually called, celebrates the birth of Christ.
Mary, Mother of God (January 1st): This solemnity celebrates Mary’s motherhood of God an early dogma reminding us of Jesus’ humanity. It also celebrates Mary herself and her role as Queen Mother relative to Jesus’ kingship.
The Epiphany (January 6th): This celebrates the arrival of the three magi in Bethlehem following Jesus’ birth.
Saint Joseph (March 19th): Celebrating the husband of Mary.
The Annunciation (March 25th): This celebrates the announcement to Mary by Gabriel that she will give birth to Jesus. It also celebrates the incarnation in her womb, which Catholics believe occurred at this moment.
Easter (March-April): This celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In fact, Easter is eight solemnities, starting with Easter Sunday and ending the next Sunday, inclusive.
The Ascension (40 days after Easter): This celebrates the ascension of Jesus to heaven after his resurrection.
Pentecost (50 days after Easter): Pentecost is Greek for “fifty”, and is a celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the apostles ten days after his ascension.
Trinity Sunday (Sunday after Pentecost): This day celebrates the entire Holy Trinity and comes immediately after the Easter season.
Corpus Christi (Thursday after Trinity Sunday): This celebrates the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and is celebrated at the beginning of “Ordinary Time”, once the Easter season is over.
Sacred Heart of Jesus (Eight Days after Corpus Christi): This celebrates Jesus’ love for humanity, which is perfectly manifested in his sacred heart.
Birth of Saint John the Baptist (June 24th): The birth of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated with its own solemnity. Curiously, there is no solemnity of John the Baptist, just his birth. This comes from the tradition that, not only did John the Baptist’s preaching prefigure Christ, his birth did too, which is why he recognized Christ from the womb.
Saints Peter and Paul (June 29th): It is sometimes joked that it is odd that neither Peter nor Paul get their own feast day. However, the purpose of putting them together is to recognize their irreplaceable roles in the founding of the Catholic Church.
Assumption of Mary (August 15th): The Assumption of Mary celebrates the taking of Mary by God body and soul into heaven.
All Saint’s (November 1st): This is the day before which is “All Hallow’s Eve”. What it celebrates is all the saints in heaven who have not been declared as such by the Church.
Feast of Christ the King (Last Sunday Before Advent): This is the last Sunday of the year for Catholics, as Advent, the four weeks leading up the the Nativity, is the start of the Catholic Year. It celebrates Jesus’ rule over all of creation.