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Light, innocence, purity, joy, triumph, glory

Season of Christmas
Season of Easter
Feasts of the Lord, other than of His passion
Feasts of Mary, the angels, and saints who were not martyrs
All Saints (1 November)
Feasts of the Apostles
Nuptial Masses
Masses for the dead (Requiem Masses) when the deceased is a baptized
child who died before the age of reason
Note: White is the color of Popes' non-liturgical dress. White can be
replaced by Silver.


The Passion, blood, fire, God's Love, martyrdom

Feasts of the Lord's passion, Blood, and Cross
Feasts of the martyrs
Palm Sunday
Note: Red is the color of Cardinals' non-liturgical dress


The Holy Ghost, life eternal, hope

Time After Epiphany
Time After Pentecost


Penance, humility, melancholy

Season of Advent
Season of Septuagesima
Season of Lent
Rogation Days
Ember Days (except for Pentecost Ember Days)
Vigils except for Ascension and Pentecost
Good Friday
Note: Violet, literally "amaranth red," is the color of Bishops', Archbishops',
and Patriarchs' non-liturgical dress


Mourning, sorrow
All Souls Day
Masses for the dead (Requiem Masses), except for baptized children
who've died before the age of reason


Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent)
Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent)


Gold can replace white, red, or green (but not violet or black)

Liturgical Colors and the

seasons of the church year
The use of colors to differentiate liturgical seasons became a common
practice in the Western church in about the fourth century. At first, usages
varied considerably but by the 12th century Pope Innocent III systematized
the use of five colors: Violet, White, Black, Red and Green. The Lutheran
and Anglican churches that emerged from the Reformation retained the
traditional colors but they disappeared entirely (along with most other ritual)
from the worship of the Reformed churches. During the 20th century, the
ecumenical Liturgical Movement prompted the rediscovery of ancient
Christian ritualincluding the traditional colors of the Western church. To
these have been added Blue and Goldcolors that were used in some
Western rites before the 12th century.

Briefly, the colors express emotions and ideas that are associated
with each of the seasons of the liturgical year. Violet is the ancient
royal color and therefore a symbol of the sovereignty of Christ. Violet
is also associated with repentance from sin. White and Gold
symbolize the brightness of day. Black is the traditional color of
mourning in some cultures. Red evokes the color of blood, and
therefore is the color of martyrs and of Christ's death on the Cross.
Red also symbolizes fire, and therefore is the color of the Holy Spirit.
Green is the color of growth. Blue is the color of the sky and in some
rites honors Mary.

Congregations in the United Church of Christ have the freedom to use any
combination of colors (or no particular colors) as seems best to them. The
use of traditional colors, however, connects us to the wider Body of Christ
and provides worship planners with visual aids that mark the transition from
one season to another. Colors can be used in altar and pulpit decorations,
vestments, banners and tapestries.


Advent is a season of spiritual preparation for the celebration of the birth of

Christ (Christmas) and looks forward to the future reign of Christ.
Eschatological expectation rather than personal penitence is the central
theme of the season. Advent is a preparation for rather than a celebration
of Christmas, so Advent hymns should be sung instead of Christmas
carols. The first Sunday of Advent is not the beginning of the Christmas
season. The Christmas celebration begins on Christmas Eve and continues
for the next "twelve days of Christmas."

Purple is normally Advent's liturgical color, associated both with the

sovereignty of Christ and with penitence. Deep Blue is also sometimes
used to distinguish the season from Lent. As the color of the night sky, Blue
symbolizes Christ who in one ancient Advent song is called the "Dayspring"
or source of day. As the color associated with Mary, Blue also reminds us
that during Advent the church waits with Mary for the birth of Jesus.

Christmas and Christmas Season

The Lectionary readings for Christmas and the following twelve days
(culminating in the feast of the Epiphany) invite the church to reflect on the
Incarnation (or embodiment) of God as a human being: "The Word became
a human being and lived among us, and we have seen his glory...." (John
1:14). In Christ, God enters human history and identifies fully with the
human condition.

The traditional colors of the season are White or Gold, symbolizing joy in
the light of day.

Season after Epiphany

The season following Epiphany continues the theme established on
Epiphany Day: the spread of the Good News of Christ from its source in the
Jewish community to all nations on earth. The Lectionary therefore
explores the mission of the church in the world. The theme of this season
(along with the sequence of readings from the Gospel) continues in the
season after Pentecost, so both seasons together can be called the "Time
of the Church." The traditional liturgical color for both seasons, Green, is
the color of growth.


The traditions of Lent are derived from the season's origin as a time when
the church prepared candidates, or "catechumens," for their baptism into
the Body of Christ. It eventually became a season of preparation not only
for catechumens but also for the whole congregation. Self-examination,
study, fasting, prayer and works of love are disciplines historically
associated with Lent. Conversionliterally, the "turning around" or
reorientation of our lives towards Godis the theme of Lent. Both as
individuals and as a community, we look inward and reflect on our
readiness to follow Jesus in his journey towards the cross. The forty days
of Lent correspond to the forty-day temptation of Jesus in the wilderness
and the forty-year journey of Israel from slavery to a new community.

On Ash Wednesday, ashes are placed on the foreheads of the

congregation as a symbol that we have come from dust and one day will
return to dust. It is one of many Lenten and Easter customs that remind us
of our historical connection with Jewish tradition. With this sobering
reminder of life's fragility, we begin a spiritual quest that continues until the
Easter Vigil, when new members of the church are often baptised and the
entire congregation joins in a reaffirmation of baptismal vows. Most of this
time of preparation is symbolized by the color Violet, though the season is
bracketed by the mourning Black of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. As
an alternative to Violet, some churches have begun to use brown, beige or
gray (the colors of rough unbleached cloth like burlap) to reflect the
season's mood of penitence and simplicity. The somber colors are a
reminder of the unbleached "sackcloth" worn by mourners and penitents in
the Jewish tradition.

Holy Week

During Holy Week, the congregation follows the footsteps of Jesus from his
entry into Jerusalem (Palm/Passion Sunday) through the Last Supper
(Maundy Thursday) to his death on the Cross (Good Friday). Red, the color
of blood and therefore of martyrs, is the traditional color for Palm/Passion
Sunday and the next three days of Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday,
White or Gold symbolizes the church's rejoicing in the sacrament of the
Lord's Supper. But at the end of the Maundy Thursday celebration, the
mood changes abruptly: all decorations are removed and the Holy Table is
stripped bare. The church becomes as empty as a tomb. On Good Friday,
either Black or Red is customaryalthough the use of no color at all is also
appropriate. The Red of Holy Week is sometimes a deeper red than the
brighter scarlet color associated with Pentecost.

Easter and Pentecost

Instead of finding a sealed tomb, the women who had come at dawn on
Sunday are surprised by an angel who announces astonishing news:
"Jesus has been raised from the dead" (Matt. 28:7). The heavenly
messenger invites the mourners to see the empty tomb and then go and
tell the disciples that the Crucified One is alive!

The season from Easter to Pentecost is also called the Great Fifty Days, a
tradition inspired by the Jewish season of fifty days between Passover and
Shavuotthe feast celebrating the giving of the Torah to Moses.

The liturgical color for this season is celebratory White or Gold. When the
season ends on Pentecost Sunday, White is replaced with Red. This color
reminds the congregation of firethe symbol of the Holy Spirit. On
Pentecost the Holy Spirit overpowered the barriers of culture and race. The
first Sunday after Pentecost celebrates the Trinity, and the color again is
White or Gold.

Season after Pentecost

This longest season of the liturgical year is a continuation of the "Time of

the Church" that began on the Sunday after Epiphany. It explores the
mission of the church and uses the color of Green, symbolizing growth.
During this season, the Lectionary offers two options for readings from
Hebrew Scripture: the first, topical option selects readings thematically
related to the Epistle or Gospel texts. The second, sequential option reads
through an entire book of Hebrew Scripture in sequence.

Other Holy Days and observances

Pentecostal Red is also the traditional color for Reformation Day on
October 31. White or Gold is the color for All Saints Day on November 1
and is also an alternative to Green on the last Sunday after Pentecostthe
feast of the Reign of Christ.

During other observances, the tradition is to use Red on commemorations

of martyrs and other saints. As the color of the Holy Spirit, it is appropriate
for ordinations. The colors of Christmas, White or Gold, are also customary
on other feast days that celebrate the Incarnation or Resurrection of Christ
(Holy Name, Baptism, Presentation, Annunciation, Visitation, Ascension
and Transfiguration). Black for centuries was the traditional color for
funerals, but in the past fifty years many liturgical churches have preferred
to use White or Goldthe colors of Easter and therefore of Resurrection

What Are the Liturgical Seasons of the

Catholic Church?
The Yearly Cycle of Salvation History

Religion & Spirituality

by Scott P. Richert
Updated January 15, 2017

The liturgy, or public worship, of all Christian churches is governed by a yearly calendar
that commemorates the main events in salvation history. In the Catholic Church, this
cycle of public celebrations, prayers, and readings is divided into six seasons, each
emphasizing a portion of the life of Jesus Christ. These six seasons are described in the
"General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar," published by the
Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship in 1969 (after the revision of the liturgical
calendar at the time of the promulgation of the Novus Ordo). As the General Norms
note, "By means of the yearly cycle the Church celebrates the whole mystery of Christ,
from his incarnation until the day of Pentecost and the expectation of his coming again."

Advent: Prepare The Way Of The Lord

A fully lit Advent wreath with a central Christmas candle on a home altar, in front of
icons of Saint Stephen,Saint Michael, and Our Lady of Czestochowa. (Photo Scott P.

The liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent, the season of preparation for
Christ's Birth. The emphasis in the Mass and the daily prayers of this season is on the
threefold coming of Christthe prophecies of His Incarnation and Birth; His coming
into our lives through grace and the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Holy
Communion; and His Second Coming at the end of time. Sometimes called a "little
Lent," Advent is a period of joyful expectation but also of penance, as the liturgical color
of the seasonpurple, as in Lentindicates.
When Does Advent Start?
What Is Philip's Fast?
Why Do Priests Wear Purple During Advent?
Preparing for Christmas With the Advent Wreath
Daily Scripture Readings for Advent
Family Activities and Devotions for Celebrating Advent


Christmas: Christ Is Born!

Detail of a Fontanini Nativity scene during Advent, before the Christ Child is placed in
the manger on Christmas Eve. (Photo Amy J. Richert)

The joyful expectation of Advent finds its culmination in the second season of the
liturgical year: Christmas. Traditionally, the Christmas season extended from First
Vespers (or evening prayer) of Christmas (before Midnight Mass) through Candlemas,
the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2)a period of 40 days. With the
revision of the calendar in 1969, "The Christmas season runs," notes the General
Norms, "from evening prayer I of Christmas until the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6
January, inclusive"that is, until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Contrary to
popular celebration, the Christmas season does not encompass Advent, nor end with
Christmas Day, but begins after Advent ends and extends into the New Year. The season
is celebrated with a special joy throughout theTwelve Days of Christmas, ending with
the Epiphany of Our Lord (January 6).

Prayer for the Feast of Christmas

When Should You Put Up Your Christmas Tree?
When Should You Take Down Your Christmas Tree?
Is Christmas a Holy Day of Obligation?
Christmas Messages

Ordinary Time: Walking With Christ

Statues of the Apostles, Jesus Christ, and John the Baptist on the faade of Saint Peter's
Basilica, Vatican City. (Photo Scott P. Richert)

On the Monday after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the longest season of the
liturgical yearOrdinary Timebegins. Depending on the year, it encompasses either
33 or 34 weeks, broken into two distinct portions of the calendar, the first ending on the
Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, and the second beginning on the Monday
afterPentecost and running until evening prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent. (Before
the revision of the calendar in 1969, these two periods were known as the the Sundays
After Epiphany and the Sundays After Pentecost.) Ordinary Time takes its name from
the fact that the weeks are numbered (ordinal numbers are numbers indicating
positions in a series, such as fifth, sixth, and seventh). During both periods of Ordinary
Time, the emphasis in the Mass and the Church's daily prayer is on Christ's teaching and
His life among His disciples. More
Lent: Dying To Self

Catholics pray during an Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the
Apostle, Washington, D.C., February 17, 2010. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The season of Ordinary Time is interrupted by three seasons, the first being Lent, the40-
day period of preparation for Easter. In any given year, the length of the first period of
Ordinary Time depends on the date of Ash Wednesday, which itself depends on the date
of Easter. Lent is a period of fasting, abstinence, prayer, and almsgivingall to prepare
ourselves, body and soul, to die with Christ on Good Friday so that we may
rise again with Him on Easter Sunday. During Lent, the emphasis in the Mass readings
and daily prayers of the Church is on the prophecies and foreshadowings of Christ in the
Old Testament, and the increasing revelation of the nature of Christ and His mission.

When Is Lent?
Scripture Readings for Lent
Meatless Recipes for Lent
Why Don't Roman Catholics Sing the Alleluia During Lent?
What Is Holy Week?

The Easter Triduum: From Death Into Life

A detail from Giotto di Bondone's Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas), Cappella Scrovegni,
Padua, Italy. (Wikimedia Commons)

Like Ordinary Time, the Easter Triduum is a new liturgical season created with the
revision of the liturgical calendar in 1969. It has its roots, though, in the reform of the
ceremonies of Holy Week in 1956. While Ordinary Time is the longest of the Church's
liturgical seasons, the Easter Triduum is the shortest; as the General Norms note, "The
Easter triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper [on Holy Thursday],
reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter
Sunday." While the Easter Triduum is liturgically a separate season from Lent, it
remains a part of the 40-day Lenten fast, which extends from Ash Wednesday
through Holy Saturday, excluding the six Sundays in Lent, which are never days of

When Is Holy Thursday?

Is Holy Thursday a Holy Day of Obligation?
What Is Good Friday?
When Is Good Friday?
Can Catholics Eat Meat on Good Friday?
Is Good Friday a Holy Day of Obligation?
Why Is Good Friday Good?


Easter: Christ Is Risen!

A statue of the risen Christ at Saint Mary Oratory, Rockford, Illinois. (Photo Scott P.

After Lent and the Easter Triduum, the third season to interrupt Ordinary Time is the
Easter season itself. Beginning on Easter Sunday and running to Pentecost Sunday, a
period of 50 days (inclusive), the Easter season is second only to Ordinary Time in
length. Easter is the greatest feast in the Christian calendar, for "if Christ is not risen,
our faith is in vain." The Resurrection of Christ culminates in His Ascension into Heaven
and thedescent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which inaugurates the mission of the
Church to spread the Good News of salvation to all the world.

Easter 101
When Is Easter?
How Is the Date of Easter Calculated?
What Is the Easter Duty?
When Is Ascension?
Is Ascension a Holy Day of Obligation?
Pentecost 101
When Is Pentecost Sunday?


Rogation And Ember Days: Petition And Thanksgiving

In addition to the six liturgical seasons discussed above, the "General Norms for the
Liturgical Year and the Calendar" lists a seventh item in its discussion of the yearly
liturgical cycle: the Rogation Days and Ember Days. While these days of prayer, both of
petition and of thanksgiving, do not constitute a liturgical season of their own, they are
some of the oldest annual celebrations in the Catholic Church, celebrated continuously
for over 1,500 years until the revision of the calendar in 1969. At that point, the
celebration of both the Rogation Days and the Ember Days were made optional, with the
decision left up to the bishops' conference of each country. As a result, neither is widely
celebrated today. More