Twelve Great Feasts

Twelve Great Feasts

The ecclesiastical calendar begins on September 1. Pre-eminent among all festivals is Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, which stands in a class by itself. Next in importance come the Twelve Great Feasts, usually reckoned as follows:

  • The Nativity of the Mother of God (September 8)
  • The Exaltation (or Raising Up) of the Honoured and Life-giving Cross (September 14)
  • The Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple (November 21)
  • The Nativity of Christ (Christmas) (December 25)
  • The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan (Theophany or Epiphany) (January 6)
  • The Meeting of Our Lord (Presentation of Christ in the Temple) (February 2)
  • The Annunciation of the Mother of God (March 25)
  • The Entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) (one week before Pascha)
  • The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ (40 days after Pascha)
  • Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) (50 days after Pascha)
  • The Transfiguration of Christ (August 6)
  • The Falling Asleep of the Mother of God (the Dormition) (August 15)

Thus three of the Twelve Great Feasts depend on the date of Pascha and are ‘movable’; the rest are ‘fixed’. Seven are feasts of the Lord, and five are feasts of the Mother of God.+

There are also a large number of other festivals, of varying importance. Among the more prominent are:

  • The Circumcision of Christ (January 1)
  • The Three Great Hierarchs (January 30)
  • The Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24)
  • St. Peter and St. Paul (June 29)
  • The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29)
  • The Protecting Veil of the Mother of God (October 1)
  • St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (December 6)
  • All Saints (First Sunday after Pentecost)

+The Meeting (February 2) is sometimes reckoned as a feast of the Lord, in which case there are eight feasts of the Lord, and four of the Mother of God.

Source: The Orthodox Church, Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, Penguin Books, 1997.