Feast Day History, Customs, Traditions, and Images
A feast day is any day set aside for a religious or other celebration. In the Christian tradition, feast days are usually focused around holy people, such Jesus or the saints. However, feast days may also commemorate events, such as Christmas Day, which commemorates the birth of Jesus. The most important Catholic feast is Easter, and every Sunday is considered a feast day of sorts.
The word "feast" has a dual meaning in the Catholic Church: It is a general term referring to any celebration, but it also has an official level of celebration (see below).
In the Catholic Church, feast days are ranked according to their importance. Solemnities are the most important, followed by feasts, obligatory memorials, and optional memorials. Some festivals are celebrated locally (e.g., a village saint) while the general calendar (which most Catholic churches follow) celebrates the men and women of great faith who impacted the entire Church.
Many Protestant hurches have embraced the Church year and some, like Lutherans and Anglicans (Episcopal), have an elaborate calendar that honors holy people, even if their beliefs are different.
Feast days are meant to be celebrations, especially solemnities. This explains why Sunday (a solemnity) is exempt from Lenten fasting regulations. Because of the emphasis on joy and celebration, feast days are sometimes preceded by a fast (or several fast days) in the Church calendar.
The official rank of "feast" typically celebrates saints, or events in the lives of major Christian figures, that are important, but not important enough to be solemnities. So, while Mary's major day on January 1 is a solemnity, her birthday on September 8 is a feast.
Updated 02-07-2023 by Elizabeth Craig