Christianity: Celebrations and Festivals

Christian celebrations and festivals center around important dates in Jesus' life.

Advent - the four-week season of preparation for the birth of Christ, and for the Second Coming. Often an Advent wreathe is used as a focus for prayer during Advent.  

Christmas - Jesus' birth - often celebrated with nativity scenes, stories, pageants recalling the story of Jesus' humble birth in a stable surrounded by animals.  

Epiphany - the visit of the three wise ones to Jesus just after his birth and their subsequent spreading of the news of his birth throughout the world.

Lent - the period leading up to Easter commemorating the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying. A time for personal reflection and improvement through prayer, fasting, and study.   

Holy Week - the last week of Jesus' life, including Palm Sunday, which celebrates his triumphal entry into Jerusalem the week before he was crucified; Maundy Thursday, a remembrance of the Last Supper with the disciples; and Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified on a cross, which is the most recognized symbol of Christianity.  

Easter - Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Eggs are a major symbol of Easter since they symbolize new life. Crosses are often covered with flowers to symbolize Jesus' victory over death.  

Ascension Day - when Jesus' ascended into Heaven.  

Pentecost - the gift of the Holy Spirit, God's presence in the world, to Jesus' followers in the form of a mighty wind and tongues of fire.   

Saints' Days - official days, recognized by many Christians, especially Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican, celebrating people who have lived particularly holy lives and are recognized as official saints. 

In addition, certain passages in an individual Christian's life are marked by celebration and special services. These include Baptism, or birth into the Christian church; Confirmation, an informed commitment to membership in the church; weddings; and funerals.