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British Life and Culture

by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
Christian Festivals

Introduction to Christian Festivals

Lent, Easter and Christmas are the main religious festivals of the Christian Year. Most people in Britain celebrate Christmas and Easter. School children have two weeks off school during Christmas and Easter.

The Christian Year

The Christian year is divided up with events which remind us of the life of Jesus. It begins with the season of Advent, at the very end of November, which is a period of preparation for the coming of Christ, and then moves through the story of his life to the important focus of Holy Week and Easter. After celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, the story focuses on the founding of the Church itself, with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, before settling down for a period of teaching and consolidation of the faith during the weeks of Trinity.

Some festivals, like Christmas Day, happen on the same date every year, while others move around within a range of dates.

Why are some of the Christian festivals not on the same date each year?

The reason is because the Christian Calendar grew out of two other Calendars, the Jewish and the Roman.

In their distant past, the Jews were a nomadic ( wandering) people. As they often travelled at night, the moon was of great importance to them, and they based their calendar on its phases. The first great Christian festivals sprang from Jewish ones.

The Christian Church grew and expanded under the Roman Empire which followed a calendar controlled by the sun. When the church began to introduce festivals of its very own, not based on the Jews, they fixed them on dates already in the Roman Calendar. The Christian Calendar is thus a dual one, with 'fixed' feats based on the Roman 'solar' calendar, and 'moveable' ones based on the Jewish 'lunar' calendar.



Advent is the start of the Christian year and is the four week period before. Find out more about Advent

Christmas is the story of Jesus' birth.
Find out more about Christmas

Epiphanywise men
The twelfth day of Christmas, celebrates the visit of the wise men, or magi, to the baby Jesus.
Find out more about Epiphany

Shrove Tuesday

Find out more about Shrove Tuesday

Lent is the 40 day period before Easter beginning with Ash Wednesday.

Find out more about Lent

Mothering Sunday

Mothers icon
Find out more about Mothering Sunday


Easter is the season in which Christians remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is the most important festival in the Christian year. Jesus' resurrection is at the centre of the Christian faith. Jesus died for the sins of humanity and by coming back to life promises eternal life for all those who believe in him.

Easter is the story of Jesus' last days in Jerusalem before the death of Jesus.

The Easter story includes:

Palm Sunday
This is the Sunday before Easter. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Christians receive palm crosses and may process around the church.
Find out more about Palm Sunday

passover meal Maundy Thursday
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter.

Find out more about Maundy Thursday

CrossGood Friday
Good Friday commemorates the death of Jesus.

Find out more about Good Friday

eggsEaster Sunday
This is the most important date in the Church Year, when Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection from dead.
Find out more about Easter.
Ascension Day
Ascension Day commemorates the ascension of Jesus into heaven forty days after his resurrection from the dead.
Find out more

Pentecost is the festival when Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Find out more

Christians celebrate harvest festivals in the autumn. It is a thanks giving to God for his beautiful and fruitful creation.
Find out more


Not all of British festivals are connected to religion. For a full list of special days in Britain and information about each, please click here.

In the summer there are many village fairs, street festivals and town carnivals all over the United Kingdom.


Visit our main index of Festivals, Holidays and Special Days in Britain

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All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the Mandy Barrow.

© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2014

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consultant.
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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