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The 2017 Church Year    (starts 27 November, 2016)

Some days of the Church Calendar, such as Christmas Day and Epiphany, are the same every year.  Many of the others change from year to year because they are linked to Easter, which is on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the March equinox.
27 November 2016 - First Sunday in Advent
The first in the four-Sunday countdown to Christmas. This is the beginning of the 2017 Church Year. We start lighting the advent candles of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, one per Sunday. The first Sunday of Advent can be as early as November 27 (if Christmas falls on a Sunday - e.g. 2016) or as late as December 3 (if Christmas falls on a Monday - e.g. 2017).

24 December 2016 - Christmas eve
We hold a Christmas Eve carol service. A final candle, the Christ Candle, is lit.

25 December 2016 - Christmas day
We celebrate Christ's birth.  This is a very symbolic time in our and many other religions.  The winter solstice has just passed on December 21, and the days are lengthening, signifying the triumph of light over darkness. We light  Christmas lights and spend time with our families. Christmas day is Day 1 of the traditional  "12 days of Christmas".  Day 12 is the day before Epiphany. "12th Night" refers to the last night before Epiphany.

6 January 2017 - Epiphany.  A revelation or manifestation. Christ is revealed to the world. In some countries it is the feast of the Magi ("Three Kings day").  Epiphany is the first day after the 12 days of Christmas. The Epiphany Sunday Service is the first Sunday before this.

28 February 2017 - Shrove Tuesday
The day before the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Some people traditionally eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day).  This is also the day for final parties and carnivals like Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) and Fastnacht before the fasting of Lent.

1 March 2017 - Ash Wednesday
The first day of Lent, a  40 day  (not counting Sundays, which are not considered part of Lent) countdown to Easter. Lent is traditionally a time of self-denial.  The name Ash Wednesday dates back to a time when people put ashes on their foreheads to remind them of the sackcloth and ashes of penitent sinners. On the first Sunday of Lent we light six candles representing the six weeks of Lent and put out one a week until the final one is extinguished on Good Friday.

21 March 2017 - "Official" March Equinox
The use of an "official" date makes Easter fall on the same Sunday all over the world. The actual equinox is the instant when the sun is right over the equator, and can be on March 19, 20, or 21, depending on the year, and on what time zone you are in. For example, this year (2017) it's on March 20 in BC and most of the rest of the world except for a small area close to the international date line.

9 April  2017 - Palm Sunday.
The Sunday prior to Easter Sunday. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and people scatter palm branches on the ground. Sometimes we hand out palm branches at the service.

11 April 2017 - "Paschal" Full Moon
First "official" full moon on or after the official March equinox. Easter is the first Sunday after this. If the Paschal full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter is the next Sunday, so the earliest Easter can be is when the Paschal full moon falls on a Saturday. The date of the full moon is taken from tables based on a 19 year cycle. This "Ecclesiastical Full Moon" date is usually within a day or two of the true full moon date. For example, this year (2017)  the true astronomical full moon is on April 10 in Vancouver. Defining an "official" full moon date makes sure that Easter always falls on the same Sunday in all time zones. 

13 April 2017 - Maundy Thursday
The day before Good Friday. Services are held at selected churches. "Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment (the same root as mandatory). This refers to the command to love others, which Jesus gave to his disciples at the Last Supper.

14 April 2017 - Good Friday
The Crucifixion.  We have a church service on Good Friday. The service rotates among Richmond churches.

16 April 2017 - Easter Sunday
The Resurrection. Traditionally, this was the holiest day of the year. Often people who came to church only once a year came on Easter Sunday.  This role now seems to be taken by Christmas Eve.

25 May 2017 - Ascension
Jesus ascends into heaven on the 40th day after resurrection.  In some countries this is a holiday. Not here. We observe it on the nearest Sunday.

4 June 2017 - Pentecost
From the Greek "50th day".  If you count Easter as day 1, Pentecost is day 50.  Jesus' disciples receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Some traditions hold that they could "speak in tongues" and understand foreign languages, symbolic of being able to spread the Gospel to all peoples.  Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Christian Church.

11 June 2017 - Trinity Sunday
Celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost. Celebrates the Creator, Word and Spirit in one God. (In older tradition "Father, Son and Holy Ghost")

3 December 2017 - First Sunday of Advent
Official start of the 2018 Church Year. This is the latest it can be, as Christmas falls on Monday in 2017.