Feast Days: Celebrating the Church’s Calendar


Feast days in the Catholic Church are much more than just dates on a calendar. They are special moments to pause and remember the significant events, people, and mysteries of our faith. From the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) to the feast days of saints like St. Francis of Assisi, these days serve as spiritual markers that guide us through the liturgical year. But what exactly are feast days, and why do we celebrate them? This article explores the significance, history, and theological basis of feast days in the Catholic Church.

What Are Feast Days?

Feast days are designated days on the Catholic liturgical calendar set aside to commemorate events, saints, or doctrines that are important in the life of the Church. These can range from Solemnities, which are the highest-ranking feast days like Easter and Christmas, to optional memorials that celebrate lesser-known saints.

Theological Basis for Feast Days

Celebrating the Mysteries of Christ

The core of our feast day celebrations revolves around Jesus Christ. We are invited to walk with Jesus through significant moments in His life, ministry, and paschal mystery (His Passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension). The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance” (CCC, 1168).

Honoring Mary and the Saints

In addition to focusing on Christ, feast days often honor the Virgin Mary and the saints. These individuals serve as models of faith, hope, and love. “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors” (CCC, 828).

Scriptural Foundations

Though the Bible doesn’t mention feast days as they are structured in the Catholic Church today, it does contain many instances of religious feasts and festivals. For example, in the Old Testament, festivals like Passover were occasions for communal prayer and remembrance of God’s mighty acts (Exodus 12:14). In the New Testament, we see Jesus participating in these feasts (John 7:2-10). This tradition of communal religious celebration has continued in the practice of feast days.

Types of Feast Days


Solemnities are the highest-ranking feast days and are celebrated with the greatest liturgical importance. Examples include Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. These are universal celebrations observed by the entire Catholic Church.

Feast Days

Feast days are a rank below solemnities and are often dedicated to important events in the life of Jesus, Mary, and distinguished saints. Examples include the Feast of the Transfiguration and the Feast of St. Peter and Paul.


Memorials are celebrations of lesser importance compared to solemnities and feasts, and they usually commemorate lesser-known saints or events. They can be either obligatory or optional.

Local and Universal Feast Days

While there are universal feast days celebrated by the entire Catholic Church, there are also local feast days that are celebrated in specific regions, dioceses, or parishes. These usually honor saints or events that have particular significance to that community.

How to Celebrate Feast Days

Liturgical Celebrations

The primary way to celebrate a feast day is through the liturgy, usually the Mass. Special readings, prayers, and hymns are often chosen to reflect the significance of the day.

Personal Devotions and Traditions

In addition to Mass, many people have personal devotions or family traditions to celebrate feast days. This could include praying a novena, making a pilgrimage, or preparing a special meal.

Acts of Charity

Feast days can also be an opportunity to perform acts of charity, as an embodiment of the faith and virtues of the saints or events being celebrated. “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind” (Hebrews 13:16).

Why Feast Days Matter

Feast days are a spiritual compass, orienting us to the mysteries of our faith and drawing us closer to God. They serve as reminders of God’s saving actions in history and of the heroic virtues of Mary and the saints. By taking time to commemorate these events and individuals, we open ourselves to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Moreover, feast days link us to the universal Church, reminding us that we are part of a much larger family of faith. As we celebrate these special days, we are united with Catholics around the world in a communal expression of our shared beliefs and aspirations.


Feast days enrich our spiritual lives, connect us with the universal Church, and provide an opportunity for deeper communion with God and one another. By celebrating these holy days, we partake in a longstanding tradition that honors the mysteries of Christ, venerates the Virgin Mary, and pays homage to the saints—those heroes of our faith who have run the race before us. As the Catechism beautifully puts it, “In the feasts of the sanctorum, the Church proclaims the Paschal mystery as achieved in the saints who have suffered and have been glorified with Christ. She proposes them to the faithful as examples who draw all men to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she beseeches God to give to the faithful, his grace” (CCC, 1173).

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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