Advent is a time of preparation, beginning with the Sunday nearest November 30. On the four Sundays of Advent, the church both looks forward to celebrating the birth of Christ and prepares for the return of Christ. The liturgical color is purple or dark blue.
Christmas is the festival of the birth of Christ, the incarnation. The twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas Eve and end on the celebration of the Epiphany (January 6). The liturgical colors are white and gold.
The Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday are sometimes called the Epiphany season; they are also called Ordinary Time, since those Sundays are not associated with a major festival day. The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green, except on the first and last Sundays—the baptism of the Lord and the transfiguration of the Lord—for which the color is white.
Note: Depending on the date for Easter, this period of Ordinary Time may include six or more Sundays. The transfiguration of the Lord is scheduled for the Sunday preceding Lent.
Like Advent, Lent is a time of preparation. For forty days and six Sundays beginning on Ash Wednesday, the church remembers the atoning work of Christ and what it means to follow Jesus. Historically those new to the faith were prepared for baptism on Easter Sunday.
The week from Palm/Passion Sunday to Easter Sunday is traditionally called Holy Week. The three days from Maundy Thursday through the Easter Vigil form a unit of remembering the death and resurrection of Christ; they are sometimes called the Three Days.
The liturgical color for Lent is purple but may also be red on Palm/Passion Sunday. Traditionally the church is stripped of all decoration on Maundy Thursday, so no color is designated for Good Friday.
The Easter season is a period of fifty days—forty days from Easter Sunday to the ascension of Christ, and ten more from Ascension Day to Pentecost. The Easter season celebrates the triumph of Christ over death and his ruling power over all creation. The liturgical colors are white and gold. The color for Pentecost is red.
After the Easter cycle, a longer period of Ordinary Time follows Pentecost Sunday until Advent. The first Sunday in this period is Trinity Sunday; the last Sunday is Christ the King Sunday. The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green, except on those two Sundays, when the color is white.
Key Dates of the Christian Year
All Saints’ Day, November 1
Christ the King Sunday, November 24
First Sunday of Advent, December 1
Christmas, December 25
Epiphany, January 6
Baptism of Our Lord, January 12
Transfiguration Sunday, March 2
Ash Wednesday, March 5
First Sunday in Lent, March 9
Palm or Passion Sunday, April 13
Maundy Thursday, April 7
Good Friday,April 8
Easter Sunday, April 20
Ascension Day, May 29
Pentecost, June 8