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What are the Major Christian Holidays?

Epiphany celebrates the three wise men who visited baby Jesus.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 April 2014
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The major holidays in the Christian faith center around the life and death of Jesus Christ, a figure who is revered as the son of God and a prophet by Christians around the world. In communities with a large Christian population, these days are usually designated as general holidays, recognizing the fact that many people do not plan on working. Lesser Christian holidays are commemorated on individual saint's days, with some communities holding elaborate celebrations for particular saints.

For most Christians, the most important holiday is probably Easter Sunday, which commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the tomb. This event is especially important to Christians because it is treated as proof of Christ's divinity. Traditionally, individuals attend church services on Easter, and often celebrate with a meal that includes lamb and other traditional foods, depending on the culture.

Chronologically, the first of the major holidays is Epiphany, which occurs on the sixth of January. This holiday celebrates the three "Wise Men" who attended the birth of Christ with gifts. The next major holiday is Ash Wednesday, which occurs 40 days before Easter, commemorating the start of Lent. During Lent, some Christians observe special dietary rules, and many devout people give something up for Lent, using these 40 days as a period of reflection and religious contemplation.

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As Lent draws to a close, some Christians celebrate Holy Week, which commemorates the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, through His crucifixion on Good Friday. Holy Week ends with Easter Sunday, the most important of Christian holidays discussed above. The next big holiday is Pentecost, celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter, when the Holy Spirit is said to have descended upon the disciples of Christ.

Many Christians around the world also celebrate Christmas, the commemoration of Christ's birth, on 25 December each year. Some also observe Advent in the weeks leading up to Christmas, attending special church services during this period. Christmas celebrations can get quite elaborate, making it one of the more well-known holidays, as people exchange gifts, attend parties, and celebrate the birth of Christ.

Because the global Christian community is very active, holidays connected to the faith are celebrated on every continent, even in areas where Christians are not the dominant religious group. The period of the year between Christmas and New Years is also treated as a holiday by most people around the world, regardless of faith, because it has become so associated with celebration, sometimes to excess, and therefore little work happens during this two week period.

Not all Christians observe the major holidays, representing the immense diversity in the faith. Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, only celebrate the Memorial of Christ's Death, which falls around Good Friday each year. People in this denomination believe that other holidays are pagan in nature, since they were not instituted by Christ Himself. While it is not considered a religious holiday, many Mormons observe the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints on 6 April annually, and many also believe that Christ was born on 6 April, although they celebrate Christmas as well.

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Discuss this Article

giddion
Post 9
@JackWhack – I agree with you.

Wouldn't Jews be offended if suddenly “Happy Hanukkah” became taboo to say? I just don't see why they single out one religion like this.

I understand that some people find “Happy Holidays” to be more fitting, since they may celebrate neither Christmas nor Hanukkah. But why make a big deal out of the term anyway?

JackWhack
Post 8
I find it offensive that so many businesses and even the government are trying to steer people away from saying, “Merry Christmas.” Since it's been primarily a Christian holiday for years, what's the big deal about using the term?
orangey03
Post 7

@seag47 – You know, the place where I work lets Christians have holidays off, as long as they agree to work an extra day to make up for it. In some cases, they even give them a choice of which holidays they want to work out in trade.

Some Christians come in on Thanksgiving morning in order to take off Easter Sunday or Good Friday. Thanksgiving isn't traditionally a Christian holiday, even though the original celebration likely focused on giving thanks to God, so many of them don't mind trading out with this day.

seag47
Post 6

@Sunny27 – Good Friday is one of the Christian holidays on which many of the businesses in my area close. For many years when I worked at the newspaper, we would shut down for this holiday.

I liked having the time off, especially since I celebrated Good Friday as a Christian. However, after nearly a decade of closing down for this holiday, the paper decided to start opening and publishing on that day.

I was disappointed in this. I felt like they should give the day the reverence it deserved, or at the very least, let the employees who wanted to observe it have the day off with pay.

cafe41
Post 4

Sunny27 - The Christian holiday list also includes many holy days of obligation which are significant days in which we go to mass.

For Catholics these special days include Ash Wednesday which signals the beginning of lent. On Ash Wednesday, Catholics prepare for lent and receive an ash blessing on their forehead to remind them of the significance of life and how we all turn to dust upon death.

Other holy days of obligation include All Saints Day, Palm Sunday, and The Feast of the Immaculate Conception Day which is usually a few weeks before Christmas.

These represent additional days that Catholics would go to church on top of the obligatory weekly Sunday mass.

Sunny27
Post 3

Anon138147 - I enjoyed the article too. I wanted to say that the Christian holiday's list would also include Good Friday and Easter.

The Christian Holiday of Easter is so significant that many stores are closed. For example, Publix Supermarkets is closed on Easter Sunday because the founders are Catholics and this is the day that Jesus rose from the dead.

It is considered a very sacred holiday as is Good Friday.

On Good Friday, Christians all over the world give up meat. This day actually signals the last day of Lent for Catholics. Most schools are closed in observance of this day as well. I know that my children have no school that day.

anon138147
Post 1

thanks this helped a lot!

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