Abrahamic / Middle Eastern Christianity Holy Days of Obligation in the Catholic Church The Most Important Feasts in the Catholic Calendar Share Flipboard Email Print Agung Parameswara/Stringer/Getty Images Christianity Catholicism Holy Days and Holidays Beliefs and Teachings Prayers Tips Worship Saints Christianity Origins The Bible The New Testament The Old Testament Practical Tools for Christians Christian Life For Teens Christian Prayers Weddings Inspirational Bible Devotions Denominations of Christianity Funerals and Memorial Services Christian Holidays Christian Entertainment Key Terms in Christianity Latter Day Saints View More by ThoughtCo Updated June 25, 2019 Holy days of obligation are feast days on which Catholics are required to attend Mass and to avoid (to the extent that they are able) servile work. The observance of Holy Days of Obligation is part of the Sunday Duty, the first of the Precepts of the Church, and are listed in Canon 1246 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Holy Days of Obligation are days other than Sundays on which Catholics are required to participate in the Mass, the primary form of worship. Any feast celebrated on a Sunday, such as Easter, falls under normal Sunday Duty and thus isn't included in a list of Holy Days of Obligation. There are currently 10 Holy Days of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and five in the Eastern Catholic Churches; in the United States, only six Holy Days of Obligation are observed. Day Date Meaning Solemnity of Mary January 1 The role that the Blessed Virgin played in the plan of salvation Epiphany January 6 Christ's revelations to man Solemnity of St. Joseph March 19 The life of the foster father of Jesus Christ Ascension 40 days after Easter When the risen Christ ascended into heaven Corpus Christi Thursday after Trinity Sunday The institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul June 29 The two greatest apostles, whose martyrdom established the preeminence of the Church at Rome Assumption August 15 The Blessed Virgin Mary's death and her assumption into heaven All Saints Day November 1 The martyrdom of Christian saints Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception December 8 The conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne Christmas December 25 The birth of Christ What Is an Obligation? A lot of people misunderstand what it means to say that Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. This isn't an arbitrary rule, but part of general moral life—the need to do good and avoid evil. That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Para. 2041) describes the obligations listed in the Precepts of the Church as "the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor." These are things that, as Christians, Catholics should want to do anyway; the Church uses the Precepts of the Church (of which the listing of Holy Days of Obligation is one) simply as a way to remind adherents of the need to grow in holiness. What the Church Prescribes The Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church lists (in Canon 1246) the 10 universal Holy Days of Obligation, though it notes that each country's bishops' conference can, with the permission of the Vatican, modify that list: Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church. Also to be observed are the day of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary Mother of God and her Immaculate Conception and Assumption, Saint Joseph, the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, and finally, All Saints.However, the conference of bishops can abolish certain holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday with prior approval of the Apostolic See. Norms for the United States The bishops of the United States petitioned the Holy See in 1991 to remove three of the universal Holy Days of Obligation—Corpus Christi (the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ), Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul—and to transfer the celebration of Epiphany to the nearest Sunday. Thus, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) lists the following Holy Days of Obligation in the United States: January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of GodThursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the AscensionAugust 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin MaryNovember 1, the solemnity of All SaintsDecember 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate ConceptionDecember 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Moreover, "Whenever January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated." In addition, the USCCB received permission in 1999 for each ecclesiastical province in the United States to decide whether Ascension would be celebrated on its traditional day (Ascension Thursday, 40 days after Easter Sunday) or transferred to the following Sunday (43 days after Easter). Holy Days of Obligation in the Eastern Catholic Churches The Eastern Catholic Churches are governed by their own Code of Canons of Oriental Churches, which lists the following Holy Days of Obligation in Canon 880: "Holy days of obligation common to all the Eastern Churches, beyond Sundays, are the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Dormition of the Holy Mary Mother of God and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul except for the particular law of a Church sui iuris approved by the Apostolic See which suppresses holy days of obligation or transfers them to a Sunday." Continue Reading What Are the 10 Holy Days of Obligation in the Latin Rite? Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar (For This and Other Years) The Catholic Holy Days of Obligation in the United States When New Year's Day Falls on Friday, Can Catholics Eat Meat? Is Ascension Thursday a Holy Day of Obligation? Is New Year's a Holy Day of Obligation? When Christmas Falls on Friday, Can Catholics Eat Meat? Catholicism FAQs: Is Epiphany a Holy Day of Obligation? Is Holy Thursday a Holy Day of Obligation? Can You Go to Mass on New Year's Eve Instead of New Year's Day? Is All Saints Day a Holy Day of Obligation? Start the New Year With Mary, the Mother of God Is Immaculate Conception a Holy Day of Obligation? A Short History of Lent and the Lenten Fast Is Good Friday a Holy Day of Obligation? When Is the Feast of the Assumption This Year?