Category Archives: Church holiday

November 1: All Saints’ Day

All Saints Day is celebrated by dozens of Christian traditions in many countries around the world. Each different area has its own flavor, but most All Saints’ Day celebrations include some recognition of Christians who have recently passed away. For some, this means a special prayer and moment of silence in Sunday’s service,while others have a family picnic at their loved one’s graves.

 

“For All the Saints” by William Walsham How is the unofficial theme song for this day. Those living in the church today are known as the “church militant,” still fighting the evil one, while the dead saints are known as the “Church triumphant,” their fight over. Pretty cool, huh? Here are a couple of verses:

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

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June 24: St. John’s Day

John the Baptist by Mathis Gothart GrünewaldJune 24 is celebrated as St. John’s Day. To be more specific, that’s St. John the Baptist’s Day, but it’s usually known simply as St. John’s Day. In yesterday’s post I mentioned several of the traditions associated with St. John’s Eve, but St. John’s Day tends to be more of a celebration of the man.

John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin, born less than a year before he was to an elderly couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who had never had children. John was no ordinary guy. In fact, he moved to the wilderness, wore camel’s hair clothing, and ate locusts and honey. He was a fiery preacher, calling a group of Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7), and continuing:

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Matthew 3:11-12

May 30: Feast Day of Joan of Arc

Joan_of_arc_between 1450 and 1500On May 30, 1431, around the age of 19, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and people have been fascinated ever since. Actually, people were fascinated with the Maid of Orleans a few years before that, but that’s the most famous part.

Joan of Arc was a peasant girl in the Middle Ages, who became very powerful during the Hundred Years War, when she claimed to have visions from God leading her to support the French king Charles VII. She lifted the siege of Orleans in nine days and rallied the French troops through a series of victories, until Charles VII was finally crowned at Reims.

Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII. Oil on canvas, painted in 1854Less than a year later, she was captured. The English put her on trial for heresy, convicted her, and executed her.

Then, some 20+ years after her death, the war ended and Joan of Arc was placed on trial again, posthumously. Her conviction was overturned, and she was named a martyr.

Today she is the subject of numerous books and movies, as well as the patron saint of France.

“Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.”

Psalm 24:7-8

P. S. If Joan of Arc is too serious for you, check out last years post on May 30: My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It Day!

May 26*: Trinity Sunday

Holy_Spirit_as_Dove_(detail)The first Sunday after Pentecost is always Trinity Sunday, celebrating the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20

The following video is BMV 129, or “Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott,” meaning “Praised be the Lord, my God.” Johann Sebastian Bach composed this cantata in 1726, specifically for Trinity Sunday.

May 19*: Pentecost

Holy_Spirit_as_Dove_(detail)Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter, which means it’s May 19 in 2013 in Western Christianity (Eastern churches celebrate Easter and Pentecost on different dates). It commemorates the day that the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, when there were tongues of fire on their heads, and they were speaking in strange tongues with their mouths.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

Acts 2:1-4

candleAlthough Pentecost is typically thought of as a Christian holiday, it’s actually older than that. Pentecost was the Greek term for the Jewish celebration Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, held 50 days after Passover. However, the Jewish Pentecost is on Saturday, while Christians celebrate it on Sunday.

The Pentecost recorded in Acts 2 was the first Pentecost after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. When the apostles began to speak in tongues, the people were flabbergasted, and some decided that they must be drunk. Then Peter stood up and gave what is often called the first gospel sermon:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Acts 2:38-39

March 25: Waffle Day

wafflesAt first glance, Waffle Day may seem to be just another silly food holiday, but this March 25 celebration actually has some funny roots. The holiday originated in Sweden, due to a strong similarity in pronunciation between the words Vårfrudagen (Our Lady’s Day) and Våffeldagen (Waffle Day).

Giovanni Battista Salvi Il Sassoferrato, Jungfrun i bön 1640-1650For centuries, much of western Christianity has celebrated March 25* (nine months before Christmas) as the Feast of the Annunciation (in other words, the announcement from the angel Gabriel to Mary that she was to have a child, the son of God). It’s often referred to as Lady Day, Our Lady’s Day, or, in Sweden, Vårfrudagen.

Since Our Lady’s Day and Waffle Day sound so similar in Swedish, people took to celebrating Our Lady’s Day with waffles! In addition, March 25 is very close to the vernal equinox,  so the day has also become a bit of a de facto celebration of spring.

SPRING!It seems that other countries (especially the U.S.) heard the words “Waffle Day” and immediately responded “Ooh! I like waffles!” Sounds good to me!

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Luke 1:31-33

*Correction: It is always celebrated on March 25, unless that happens to be a Sunday and unless that happens to fall during Holy Week. In 2013, March 25 is the Monday of Holy Week (Easter is this coming Sunday), so most groups move the Feast of Annunciation all the way to April 8, the day after Divine Mercy Sunday. Whether or not that moves Waffle Day is up for debate, but the general consensus is no.

Two more things:
1) In 2013, March 25 is also the first day of Passover.
2) March 25 is also Tolkien Reading Day, and the day that Sauron fell. I blogged last year about this holiday for one of my favorite authors here.

February 13*: Ash Wednesday

*The date of Ash Wednesday is based off of the date of Easter, so it changes every year. In 2013, it’s happening on February 13, right before Valentine’s Day!

Ash Wednesday, photo is public domain

Lent is a time of fasting and prayer, remembering the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. As you probably all know, Lent starts today on Ash Wednesday and lasts until Easter (March 31, this year). There are dozens of traditions about Lent, but most involve giving something up for the entire season of Lent, and using the time, money, and energy that would have been spent on it to pray and help others.

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Mark 1:15