Overview of Bible Study

Christian Calendar


Bible Store


Christian Calendar

Just as families mark birthdays and anniversaries, so the Christian church developed its own calendar of celebration.

A Year in the Life of the Church

The pattern of the season is reflected in many religious traditions. Christians accepted this, and often adapted pagan festivals for themselves. Events in the life of Christ, and anniversaries in the life of the church, are celebrated at set times throughout the year.


Since the beginning, Easter has been the most important Christian holiday. At first, it was called the Christian Passover, to relate to Jewish Passover, and symbolized God's salvation through the sacrifice of Christ. It was a time to remember both Christ's crucifixion and His resurrection.

As early as the 2nd century, there was debate over the correct date to celebrate Easter. Some churches preferred to keep to the Jewish calendar, while others opted for a different dating system.

Initially, Easter was only a one-day festival, marking both Christ's death and resurrection. As pilgrims began to spend the festival in the Holy Land, they retraced Jesus' steps during his final week in Jerusalem, and a more complicated series of Easter services was implemented to mark the various events. By the 4th century, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday were all celebrated by the church.

At the same time, a tradition developed where those who wanted to be baptized were prepared during the 40 days of Lent, marking Jesus' period of preparation in the wilderness.

Between AD 326 and AD 1582, Christianity determined Easter using an algorithm approved by a Church Council in AD 325, with the equinox defined as March 21. From AD 1054 (when the Orthodox and Catholic Churches split) through AD 1582 both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches celebrated Easter on the same date, still using the algorithm from AD 325. The Julian Calendar was used by the European (and Christan) communities until the Gregorian reform of 1582.

Since AD 1582 October (when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted by much of Catholic Europe), the Orthodox Easter usually falls on dates different than the Western Christian Easter, although apparently the Churches are discussing using the same formula to determine Easter - probably a formula different than that currently used by either Church.


The other major holiday in the Christian church is Christmas, celebrating Christ's birth in Bethlehem. With little agreement as to the correct date for Jesus' birth, Christians observed Christmas on varying dates. Most churches in the West chose December 25th as the date, while in the East it was January 6th. Probably, both dates were previously pagan holidays.

In the 5th century, the churches of East and West agreed on December 25th as the date to mark the birthday of Jesus, with January 6th as Epiphany, marking the date the wise men visited the baby Jesus.

Just as Easter had a perior of preparation, Christmas was preceded by the season of Advent, when Christians looked forward to the second coming of Christ.

High Days and Holidays

By AD 600, other festivals had appeared on the Christian calendar. Stephen, James, and John each had a Saints' Day in their honor. Holy Innocents' Day marks Herod's massacre of the baby boys in Judea. In time, the Virgin Mary, as well as local saints and martyrs were allocated their own days. The Celtic church even added All Saints' Day.









Overview of Bible Study