In the Catholic Church, holy days of obligation (also called holydays, holidays, or days of obligation) are days on which the faithful are obliged to attend Mass.
- Latin Church
- Working holy days
- Observance by country
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- England and Wales
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- United States
- Eastern Catholic Churches
The obligation is attached to the holy day, even if transferred, as sometimes happens in the Roman Rite, to another date because of coinciding with a higher-ranking celebration. However, in some countries a dispensation is granted in such circumstances.
The holy days of obligation for Latin Catholics are indicated in canon 1246 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law:
Can. 1246. §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 dates (1 January was then the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ) minus the feasts the Body and Blood of Christ, and Saint Joseph. The present list was established in 1917.
In many countries the bishops had obtained, even before the time of 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 (but the precept is not). Very occasionally, the Feast of the Sacred Heart may fall on St. Peter and Paul's feast day, in which case it takes precedence over it; the precept then applies to the feast of the Sacred Heart.
Working holy days
While episcopal conferences may suppress holy days of obligation or transfer them to Sunday, some of them have maintained as holy days of obligation some days that are not public holidays. For most people, such days are normal working days, and they therefore cannot observe the obligation "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". However, they remain bound by the obligation to participate in Mass. For these days, referred to as "working holy days", churches may have a special timetable, with Mass available outside the normal working hours and on the previous evening.
In Ireland the only holy days of obligation that are also public holidays are Christmas and Saint Patrick's Day, so that it has five working holy days. Similarly, Slovakia has only four holy days of obligation that are also public holidays: Christmas, Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, Epiphany and All Saints', leaving it with five working holy days. In the Netherlands, the bishops conference decreed that, with effect from 1 January 1991, the feasts of the Assumption and All Saints, each of which it had previously decided to celebrate on the following Sunday, were to be of obligation as regards Mass, but not for abstaining from work.
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 Diocese of Lugano (covering 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. Germany has St. Stephen on the "Second Christmas Day" (26 December), Easter Monday and Pentecost Monday (Whit Monday).
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:
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.
In the Diocese of Hong Kong, Christmas is the only holy day of obligation.
In Czech Republic, holy days of obligation are, by Czech Bishops' Conference, reduced to only two days, which are also public holidays in the Czech Republic:
Since the other holy days of obligation mentioned in the Code of Canon Law are not public holidays, the Czech Bishops' Conference does not make attendance at Mass obligatory for Catholics, but only recommends it, as it does also on the feast days of Saints Cyril and Methodius (5 July) and Saint Wenceslas (28 September). Attendance at Mass is of course obligatory on all Sundays.
The following day is also a holy day of obligation in all of the Dominican Republic:
England and Wales
(See Liturgy Office)
There are different regulations for Scotland and for Ireland.
(See Catholic Church in Finland: Practical Matters)
The following days are also holy days of obligation in all of Germany:
In addition, almost all dioceses 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 – these days are also not usually transferred to a Sunday (though for Sts. Peter and Paul, this is theoretically possible). Attendance at the liturgical service (which is not Mass) on Good Friday, a public holiday, is also generally observed, although it is not a holy day of obligation.
Instead of being transferred to the following Sunday, the Feast of 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.
Bishops' Conference of Indonesia has not issued regulation about holy day of obligation, so ten holy days on Can. 1246 § 1 applied.
The following day is also a holy day of obligation in all of Ireland:
(See "Working holy days", above)
“Ireland” includes the entire island of Ireland, i.e. both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“Korea” includes the entire Korean Peninsula.
The following is also a holy day of obligation:
The following day is also a holy day of obligation in all of Mexico:
(See "Working holy days", above)
The following day is also a holy day of obligation in Peru:
(See "Working holy days", above)
There are different regulations for Ireland and for England and Wales.
All the holy days of obligation listed in the Code of Canon Law except the Solemnity of Saint Joseph are maintained in Slovakia, although only Solemnity of Mary, Epiphany, All Saints' Day and Christmas are also public holidays. See "Working holy days", above.
Additionally, the Slovak Bishops' Conference recommends Mass attendance on the following solemnities, because of their nationwide importance:
The following day is also a holy day of obligation in all of Spain:
(See Calendario Litúrgico Pastoral)
The following day is also a holy day of obligation in Sweden:
The following days are also holy days of obligation in Switzerland:
In the Diocese of Lugano (covering the canton of Ticino), the following three days are also holy days of obligation:
This probably makes the diocese of Lugano the only diocese in the world (except for the Vatican City part of the Diocese of Rome) where all ten holy days of obligation are observed.
These regulations also apply on the Crimean peninsula, including Sevastopol,
Roman Catholic Church
Ascension is only a holy day of obligation in the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Omaha, and Philadelphia; the others have transferred this celebration to the following Sunday.
Furthermore, 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 a Monday, the precept to attend Mass on that date is abrogated.
In years when 8 December falls on Sunday, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is normally transferred to 9 December, as it is outranked by the Second Sunday of Advent; the transfer however does not apply to the precept. Where the 1962 extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is in use, the Immaculate Conception, as a First-Class Feast, outranks the Second Sunday of Advent and so remains on 8 December.
In Hawaii, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Christmas are the only Holy Days of Obligation, as decreed by the Bishop of Honolulu in 1992, pursuant to an indult from the Holy See and as approved by the national episcopal conference. (See United States norm complementary to canon 1246)
Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church
The faithful are still obliged to attend Liturgy even if the holy day falls on a Saturday or Monday.
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.
Holy days of obligation common to all the Eastern Churches are, apart from Sundays:
A particular law of a sui iuris Church can suppresses some holy days of obligation or transfers them to a Sunday, if it is approved by the Apostolic See.
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.
Protestant churches teach that Christians have a duty to worship God in church every Sunday. The Westminster Confession of Faith says:
This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.