Other holy days


Candlemas, celebrated forty days after Christmas, commemorates the presentation of Christ in the temple (cf. Luke 2:22–38). Traditionally, it was the day to bless candles for the church’s worship during the year. The gospel of the day recounts how Simeon, at the end of his long vigil, blessed the child and his parents, praising God for the salvation prepared in the sight of every nation, and for the light that is the glory of God’s people in Israel. It is a feast of Our Lord: the liturgical colour is white, and there are six candles on the altar.

The Annunciation

The Annunciation, commemorating the angel’s visit to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is celebrated on the Sunday between 22 and 28 March or, if that Sunday is Palm Sunday or Easter Day, a week before Palm Sunday. Although the Annunciation always falls in the middle of Lent, the liturgical colour is white and there are six candles on the altar as a sign that it is a feast of Our Lord.

St John the Baptist

The Finnish midsummer holiday juhannus has its roots in the feast of St John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Christ. In the Gospel according to St John, John the Baptist declares: “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). St Augustine (354–430 AD) connected this utterance with the summer and winter solstices. After the feast, the days begin to shorten; after Christmas, they begin to lengthen. The feast is now observed on the Saturday following 19 June. The liturgical colour is white, and there are four candles on the altar.


Michaelmas is the day of the angels, whom the Bible describes as messengers of God, guardians and guides. Churches often have family Eucharists at Michaelmas. The gospel of the day (Matt. 18:1–10) sets children before us as exemplars of faith and tells us that their angels continually see the face of the Father in heaven. But the angels’ message is also meant for adults. The liturgical colour for Michaelmas is white.

All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day falls in November at the darkest time of the year and is a day of stillness and remembrance, when relatives take candles, wreaths and flowers to the graves of their departed loved ones. Visiting graves on All Saints’ Day has become a custom since World War II.

All Saints’ Day is the fifth-most popular festival in the calendar after Christmas Eve, the First Sunday of Advent, Christmas Day and Maundy Thursday. In Finland, the feast draws together the themes of what had been – and elsewhere, still is – observed as two distinct feasts: All Saints’ Day, commemorating the saints and martyrs of Christendom known only to God, and All Souls’ Day, commemorating all who have died in the faith of Christ.

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