Christian Traditions 001: Ordinary Time or Epiphany Season

Trapp Family Follow-Along: If you’re following along with the Around the Year with the Trapp Family book, Maria writes only one short paragraph about the period between Epiphany (6 January) and Candlemas (2 February). You can find it as the first paragraph under “CANDLEMAS.” All she says is that the family gathers around the crèche (a tablet or model of Jesus’ birth—in other words, a nativity scene) and says their prayers there, then sings at least one Christmas song.

EDIT (12 Jan 2015): Maria also writes a great deal about “Carnival,” the period stretching from 6 January to Ash Wednesday. I apologize for missing it before. The section starts under “CARNIVAL” in her book. Because the times of Lent and Advent are historically for fasting and abstinence from dancing, the period from 6 January to Ash Wednesday is dedicated to dancing and feasting. Because Ash Wednesday is a moveable feast, Carnival varies in length. I will describe it in greater detail in my introduction to the month of February.


The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green, which symbolizes hope.

chi rho christosSYMBOL

The symbol for Ordinary Time is the first two letters of the Greek word for Messiah, Christos, which is spelled with the Greek “chi” (which looks like an ‘X’) and “rho” (which looks like a ‘P’): ΧΡ.

12 January 2015WHEN IS IT?

Some Protestant churches celebrate Epiphany Season instead of Ordinary Time, which runs from the feast of Epiphany (approximately 6 January) until Ash Wednesday. Ordinary Time runs from the day after the end of the Christmas Season until Ash Wednesday. When is the end of the Christmas Season? Well, it’s a little more complicated…

The Christmas Season ends with the Feast of the Baptism of Christ in the Catholic Church and some Protestant churches, or with the Presentation of Christ in the Temple in the Anglican Church. Until the 1970s, the Roman Catholic Church celebrated this feast on varying days. The most recent rule, instituted by Pope Paul VI, has been for this feast to fall on the first Sunday after the Epiphany is celebrated on 6 January (11 January for the year 2015) or on the following Monday if the Epiphany is celebrated 7 or 8 January (which would be 12 January for the year 2015). In the Anglican Church (and in the Catholic Church in the U.S.), it’s pretty similar. Epiphany is celebrated either 6 January or the Sunday between 2 and 8 of January. If Epiphany is celebrated between 2 and 6 January, the Baptism of Christ is observed the Sunday afterward (11 January for the year 2015). If Epiphany is celebrated on 7 or 8 January, the Baptism of Christ is observed the following Monday (12 January for the year 2015). The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches celebrate the Baptism of the Lord on 6 January. If the church follows the Julian Calendar, 6 January is 19 January on the Gregorian (modern) Calendar. In other words, the end of the Christmas Season may be either 6 January or 19 January in Eastern churches, per my limited understanding.

However, as noted above, the Anglican Church considers the Christmas Season to end with the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, which falls on 2 February, rather than with the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, so Ordinary Time would start 3 February. That makes some sense to me, too, but I decided to start my search of traditions with the end of the Christmas Season, since it’s ongoing at the beginning of the year, and if I choose to go with the Anglican tradition of ending Christmas Season on 2 February, I therefore won’t be writing or observing any traditions until next month. So, for purely bloggy reasons, I chose to go with the Catholic end on 11 January, which means Ordinary Time begins 12 January.

green plantWHAT IS IT?

The weeks between otherwise defined seasons (like Christmas, Easter, etc.) are referred to simply as the Ordinary Weeks (or, “counted weeks”), or Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is actually divided into two parts. The first part falls between The Feast of the Baptism of Christ (11 January this year, as described above) until Ash Wednesday (the beginning of the Pre-Lent Season, which is 18 February this year); and the second part begins after Pentecost (the end of the Easter Season, which is 24 May this year) and ends before the First Sunday of Advent (which is 29 November this year). Because Ordinary Time begins on the day after the first Sunday following 6 January (12 January this year) and ends with Ash Wednesday, and because Ash Wednesday may occur anywhere between 4 February and 10 March due to its connection to Easter Sunday, a moveable feast, the first part of Ordinary Time may end anywhere from the 4th to the 9th Ordinary Week. This year, Ash Wednesday will occur 18 February, so there will be about 5½ weeks of the first part of Ordinary Time this year.

Even though Ordinary Time actually begins on a Monday (or Tuesday for certain groups), and specifically begins the day after the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, the following Sunday is still referred to as the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. Apparently, it’s Catholic tradition to read certain passages of Scripture on every day of Ordinary Time. Sunday readings are divided into A, B, and C years; 2015 is a B year, and you can find the Sunday readings for the Ordinary Weeks and the exact dates on which they fall for this year here. The weekday and Saturday readings are divided into Year I and Year II; Year I roughly corresponds to odd-numbered years and Year II to even-numbered years, so this year is a Year I. You can follow along with January’s Year I weekday and Saturday readings here. I’m going to post the daily Bible readings every day at 1 am Central Time (U.S.) on my Facebook page at if you want to follow along via Facebook. Otherwise, you can go to the links above.


As mentioned in the previous post, the January part of Ordinary Time this year will have the following calendar:

  • January 12: beginning of Ordinary Time
  • January 18: Feast of the Confession of Peter*
  • January 18-25: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
  • January 25: Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle

So tomorrow begins the daily Bible readings for Ordinary Time. There are, however, readings for today (the Feast of the Baptism of Christ), which you can find at the link listed above.

My next post will be on January 17, a day ahead of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.


*The omission of this in the previous blog post was a mistake on my part. The Catholic commemoration is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, which celebrates a “relic”–an item believed to have spiritual or supernatural meaning. Because the very idea of a relic is not supported by Scripture and is uniquely Catholic, I originally omitted this feast. However, I later discovered that some Protestant churches commemorate the feast as the Confession of Peter, and so–albeit in different forms–the same feast is celebrated by more than one group of Christians. Therefore, I added it back in. Again, my apologies for the mistake.


Footnote 1: Instead of Ordinary Time, some Protestant churches observe the Epiphany Season, which runs from Epiphany or the Eve of Epiphany to either Candlemas (the Feast of the Presentation) or Ash Wednesday, depending on the church.

Footnote 2: I’ll note that since my last post, I discovered I’d missed an observance: the Feast of the Holy Child Jesus, which occurs on the third Sunday of every January, so 18 January for the year 2015. The only historical references I found said it started on the island Cebu in Central Philippines where a Portuguese explorer converted a tribe and gave them a figure of the Child Jesus. Later, they celebrated the Feast of the Holy Child Jesus with dances that symbolize the story of the tribe’s conversion. It’s my understanding that the tradition mostly remained there, though there are similar celebrations wherever a large group of Filipinos live. Please correct me if you know better. At any rate, that’s why I don’t include it on the list of traditions for the January Ordinary Weeks.


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