An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Feasts of the Church Year

The calendar of the church year includes two cycles of feasts and holy days. One cycle is based on the movable date of Easter Day, and the other is based on the fixed date of Christmas Day, Dec. 25. Easter Day is the first Sunday after the full moon that falls on or after Mar. 21. The four Sundays of Advent are the four Sundays before Christmas Day (BCP, p. 15). The principal feasts of the church year are Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints' Day (Nov. 1), Christmas Day, and the Epiphany (Jan. 6). Ascension Day is celebrated on the Thursday forty days after Easter. The Day of Pentecost is the eighth Sunday after Easter, the fiftieth day of the Easter season. Trinity Sunday is the Sunday after the Day of Pentecost, nine Sundays after Easter. All Saints' Sunday is the Sunday following All Saints' Day, Nov. 1, and the feast may be observed on either day. The principal feasts take precedence over any other observance.

The feasts of the Holy Name (Jan. 1), the Presentation (Feb. 2), and the Transfiguration (Aug. 6) also take precedence over the usual Sunday observance if they fall on a Sunday. These are Feasts of our Lord. Other Feasts of our Lord include the Annunciation (Mar. 25), the Visitation (May 31), St. John the Baptist (June 24), and Holy Cross Day (Sept. 14). Other major feasts include all feasts of Apostles, all feasts of Evangelists, St. Stephen (Dec. 26), the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28), St. Joseph (Mar. 19), St. Mary Magdalene (July 22), St. Mary the Virgin (Aug. 15), St. Michael and All Angels (Sept. 29), St. James of Jerusalem (Oct. 23), Independence Day (July 4), and Thanksgiving Day. 
There are other days of optional observance, including the commemorations listed in the calendar of the church year. The BCP provides proper readings and collects for the major feasts. Propers for the lesser feasts and fixed holy days are published in Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The BCP also provides the Common of Saints, which are propers for general categories of lesser saints such as martyrs, missionaries, pastors, theologians and teachers, and monastics.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.