Why Easter Is the Longest Liturgical Season in the Catholic Church

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Which religious season is longer, Christmas or Easter? Well, Easter Sunday is just one day, while there are 12 days of Christmas, right? Yes and no. To answer the question, we need to dig a little deeper.

The 12 Days of Christmas and the Christmas Season

The Christmas season actually lasts 40 days, from Christmas Day until Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation, on February 2. The 12 days of Christmas refer to the most festive part of the season, from Christmas Day until Epiphany.

What Is the Octave of Easter?

Similarly, the period from Easter Sunday through Divine Mercy Sunday (the Sunday after Easter Sunday) is an especially joyful time. The Catholic Church refers to these eight days (counting both Easter Sunday and Divine Mercy Sunday) as the Octave of Easter. (Octave is also sometimes used to indicate the eighth day, that is, Divine Mercy Sunday, rather than the entire eight-day period.)

Every day in the Octave of Easter is so important that it is treated as a continuation of Easter Sunday itself. For that reason, no fasting is allowed during the Octave of Easter (since fasting has always been forbidden on Sundays), and on the Friday after Easter, the normal obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays is waived.

How Many Days Does the Easter Season Last?

But the Easter season doesn't end after the Octave of Easter: Because Easter is the most important feast in the Christian calendar, even more important than Christmas, the Easter season continues on for 50 days, through the Ascension of Our Lord to Pentecost Sunday, seven full weeks after Easter Sunday! Indeed, for the purpose of fulfilling our Easter Duty (the requirement to receive Communion at least once during the Easter season), the Easter season extends a bit further, until Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost. That final week isn't counted in the regular Easter season, though.

How Many Days Are Between Easter and Pentecost?

If Pentecost Sunday is the seventh Sunday after Easter Sunday, shouldn't that mean that the Easter season is only 49 days long? After all, seven weeks times seven days is 49 days, right?

There's no problem with your math. But just as we count both Easter Sunday and Divine Mercy Sunday in the Octave of Easter, so, too, we count both Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday in the 50 days of the Easter season.

Have a Happy Easter

So even after Easter Sunday has passed, and the Octave of Easter has passed, keep on celebrating and wishing your friends a happy Easter. As St. John Chrysostom reminds us in his famous Easter homily, read in Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches on Easter, Christ has destroyed death, and now is the "feast of faith."

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ThoughtCo. "Why Easter Is the Longest Liturgical Season in the Catholic Church." Learn Religions, Feb. 8, 2021, learnreligions.com/50-days-of-easter-3970732. ThoughtCo. (2021, February 8). Why Easter Is the Longest Liturgical Season in the Catholic Church. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/50-days-of-easter-3970732 ThoughtCo. "Why Easter Is the Longest Liturgical Season in the Catholic Church." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/50-days-of-easter-3970732 (accessed March 28, 2023).

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