Advent is the first season of the church year, beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continuing through the day before Christmas. The name is derived from a Latin word for "coming." The season is a time of preparation and expectation for the coming celebration of our Lord's nativity, and for the final coming of Christ "in power and glory."
Christmas is a festival celebrated on December 25, commemorating the Incarnation of the Word of God in the birth of Jesus Christ. In the Book of Common Prayer, it is also called The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas Day is one of the seven principal feasts. The Christmas season lasts twelve days, from Christmas Day until Jan. 5, the day before the Epiphany.
Epiphany is a season of four to nine weeks, from the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6) through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The length of the season varies according to the date of Easter. The gospel stories of this season describe various events that manifest the divinity of Jesus, including the coming of the Magi, the Baptism of Our Lord, the wedding at Cana, the calling of the disciples, and other miracles and teachings of Jesus.
Early Christians observed "a season of penitence and fasting" in preparation for Easter and in imitation of Christ's fasting in the wilderness. In recent years, Lent has reacquired its significance as the final preparation of adult candidates for baptism. Joining with them, all Christians are invited "to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word" (BCP, p. 265).
The observances of Holy Week, the seven days before Easter, provide a liturgical experience of the last days of Jesus' earthly life, as well as the time and events leading up to his resurrection. The three holy days, or Triduum, of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are at the heart of the Holy Week observance. Holy Week ends at sundown on the Saturday before Easter, or with the celebration of the Easter Vigil.
The feast of Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, is a season of fifty days, from Easter Eve through the Day of Pentecost. During this season there is no fasting, and the Council of Nicaea (325) directed that Christians were to pray standing. The word "alleluia" (praise the Lord) is said or sung repeatedly, which contrasts sharply with the season of Lent when the alleluia is omitted.
The season after Pentecost begins on the Monday following Pentecost and continues through most of the summer and autumn. It may include as many as 28 Sundays, depending on the date of Easter. The BCP provides proper collects and readings for the other Sundays of the season. These propers are numbered and designated for use on the Sundays which are closest to specific days in the monthly calendar.