Holy Day of Obligation

Holy Day of Obligation

In the Catholic Church, Holy Days of Obligation or Holidays of Obligation,[1] less commonly called Feasts of Precept, are the days on which, as canon 1247 of the Code of Canon Law states,

On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.
Moreover they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body.


Eastern Catholic Churches

The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches lays down the following norms for Eastern Catholic Churches:

It is for the authority competent to establish the particular law of a sui iuris Church to constitute, transfer or suppress feast days and days of penance for that sui iuris Church, after, however, seeking the views of other sui iuris Churches and observing canon 40 §1.[2]
Holy days of obligation common to all the Eastern Churches are, apart from Sundays, the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Dormition of Holy Mary the Mother of God, and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, except for a particular law of a sui iuris Church, approved by the Apostolic See, which suppresses some holy days of obligation or transfers them to a Sunday.[3]
The Christian faithful are bound by the obligation to participate on Sundays and feast days in the Divine Liturgy or, according to the prescriptions or legitimate customs of their own sui iuris Church, in the celebration of the divine praises.[4]

Latin Catholic Church

The holy days of obligation for Latin Catholics are indicated in canon 1246 of the Code of Canon Law:

§1. Sunday, on which by apostolic tradition the paschal mystery is celebrated, must be observed in the universal Church as the primordial holy day of obligation. The following days must also be observed: the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostles, and All Saints.
§2. With the prior approval of the Apostolic See, however, the conference of bishops can suppress some of the holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday.

Placed in the order of the civil calendar, the ten days (apart from Sundays) that this canon mentions are:

The number of holy days of obligation was once much greater. With the motu proprio Supremi disciplinae of 2 July 1911, Pope Pius X reduced the number of such non-Sunday holy days from 36 to 8 (the above 10 minus the feasts of the Body and Blood of Christ and Saint Joseph).[5] The present list was established in 1917.[6]

In many countries the bishops had obtained, even before the time of Pope Pius X, the Holy See's approval to diminish the number of non-Sunday holy days of obligation, making it far less than 36. Today too, Episcopal Conferences have availed themselves of the authority granted them in law to reduce the number below the ten mentioned above.

Non-Sunday holy days of obligation all have the rank of solemnity. Accordingly, if in Ordinary Time one of them falls on a Sunday, the Sunday celebration gives way to it; but the Sundays of Advent, Lent and Eastertide take precedence over all solemnities, which are then transferred to another day.[7]

Latin-Rite observance by country

In Vatican City, but not in the rest of the Diocese of Rome, Sundays and all ten days listed in canon 1246 are observed as holy days of obligation. This is also the case in the Swiss canton of Ticino, but perhaps nowhere else.

Some countries have as holy days of obligation feasts that are not among those listed in canon 1246. Ireland has Saint Patrick's Day.[8] Germany has St. Stephen on the "Second Christmas Day" (26 December), Easter Monday and Pentecost Monday (Whit Monday).[9]

In countries where they are not holy days of obligation, three of the ten feast days listed above are assigned to a Sunday as their proper day:[10]

  • The Epiphany to the Sunday that falls between 2 and 8 January;
  • The Ascension of Our Lord to the following Sunday;
  • The Body and Blood of Christ to the following Sunday.

If they are thus assigned to a Sunday, they are not included in the following national lists of holy days of obligation, since in every country all Sundays are holy days of obligation.



  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Christmas

Belgium and France

  • Ascension
  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • All Saints' Day
  • Christmas


England and Wales

(See Liturgy Office)


(See Feiertagsregelung)

In addition, some Bundesländer have one or more of the following holy days of obligation:

The solemnities of Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul and the Immaculate Conception of Mary are observed nowhere in Germany as holy days of obligation. The attributes "holy day of obligation" and "public holiday" coincide; thus, not only dioceses have different ones but even in districts of the same diocese, the law is different; practically, it depends on which Bundesland, not which diocese you are in. In addition, Good Friday, which is another public holiday, is in practice, though not by Church law, celebrated in a way similar to the holy days of obligation, with attendance at the liturgical service, which on that day is distinct from celebration of Mass.

Austria, Switzerland and German-speaking areas in neighbouring countries have similar rules.


Instead of being transferred to the following Sunday, the Ascension of Our Lord, though not a holy day of obligation in Greece, is kept on the Thursday of the sixth week of Easter, in order to celebrate it on the same day as the Orthodox Church of Greece.

Hong Kong[12]



(See Liturgical Calendar)


Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore

  • Ascension
  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • All Saints' Day
  • Christmas


  • Ascension
  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • All Saints' Day
  • Christmas


All the other Holy days of Obligation are either dispensed or transferred to the succeeding Sunday.



United States

(See United States norm complementary to canon 1246)

Note 1: However, when 1 January (Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God), 15 August (Feast of the Assumption), or 1 November (Solemnity of All Saints) falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass on that date is abrogated.

Note 2: In Hawaii, in 1992, the Bishop of Honolulu, pursuant to an indult from the Holy See, established the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Christmas as the only Holy Days of Obligation to be observed in the state.[13]


  1. ^ In Scotland and Ireland and elsewhere
  2. ^ canon 880 §2(translation corrected to correspond to the original Latin). Canon 40 §1, referred to here, says: "Hierarchs who preside over sui iuris Churches and other hierarchs are to attend very zealously to the faithful protection and exact observance of their own rite; they are not to admit changes in it except by reason of its organic progress, keeping in mind, however, mutual goodwill and the unity of Christians."
  3. ^ canon 880 §3
  4. ^ canon 881 §1
  5. ^ Supremi disciplinæ in Catholic Encyclopedia
  6. ^ Codex Iuris Canonici canon 1247 (1917).
  7. ^ General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar § 5.
  8. ^ Liturgical Calendar
  9. ^ Feiertagsregelung
  10. ^ General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, 7
  11. ^ a b Celebrating the Season of Christmas, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2002
  12. ^ A Catholic Should Know -- Diocese of Hong Kong
  13. ^ United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee of Divine Worahip see Liturgical Calendar under BCL documents (2011).

See also

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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