Understanding the Calendar
Most holidays are organized into dozenals, modeled after the “12 Days of Christmas” that stretch from Christmas to Epiphany. Some of these are “fixed” dozenals pinned to the Four Great Thursdays of Thanksgiving, Garden Thursday, Ascension, and Independence Thursday.
When a dozenal is instead pinned to a calendar date that moves in relation to Thursday, an “ultimate Thursday” is assigned to celebrate the dozenal as a whole. The ultimate Thursday in a dozenal is the last Thursday, unless that day is also the 12th Day, in which case the ultimate Thursday is the 5th Day of the Dozen.
Note that dozenals beginning on Saturday or Friday have only one Thursday.
All Hallows Season
(October 20 – November 12)
12 Days of Ghosts – (Oct 20-31) A purging of the fear of death, transformation, and the unknown through play and role-play.
~ 12th Day / All Hallows Eve – (Oct 31)
12 Days of Piety – (Nov 1-12)
~ 1st Day / All Hallows – (Nov 1) Commemoration of all Saints, known and unknown.
~ 2nd Day / All Souls – (Nov 2) Commemoration of the deceased.
~ 12th Day / All Corners – (Nov 12) Celebration of the Pious Outsiders, people from neighboring countries and faiths. Mexico’s Juana Inés de la Cruz and Canada’s Jeanne Mance were both born on this day, as was Bahá’ulláh, founder of the Bahá’í religion. Also the celebration of the birthday of James Luther Adams.
(Fixed to Thanskgiving)
12 Days of THANKSGIVING – (FIXED to Thanksgiving, can overlap with All Hallows Season)
~ 1st Day / Diversity Sunday – (2nd Sunday before Thanksgiving) Celebration of the meeting of different cultures.
~ 5th Day / Remembrance Thursday – (1st Thursday of Thanksgiving) Commemoration of the misfortune of peace and cooperation broken by conflict.
~ 12th Day / Harvest Thursday (Thanksgiving) – (4th Thursday in Nov) Commemoration of the meeting of worlds in America. One of the Four Great Thursdays of Reform Unitarianism.
(November 30 – January 6)
Advent Eve / Feast of Andrew – (Nov 30) Anticipation of Advent and commemoration of the first disciple of Jesus.
12 Days of Gold – (Dec 1-12) Celebration of Mary’s Motherhood, time for unlit Christmas decorations, and for placing Mary and the Angel in the crèche.
~ 1st Day / Advent / Annunciation / Feast of Eligius – (Dec 1) Commemoration of the revelation of Jesus’ coming to Mary, and celebration of St. Eligius, patron of goldsmiths.
~ Golden Thursday / Observation of Advent– (Ultimate Thursday in the Dozen)
~ 12th Day / Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe – (Dec 12)
12 Days of Light – (Dec 13-24) Celebration of the Star of Bethlehem, time for lit Christmas decorations, and for placing Joseph and the Star in the crèche.
~ 1st Day / Feast of Lucia – (Dec 13) Celebration of St. Lucia, matron of light and sight.
~ Lightened Thursday / Observation of the Star – (Ultimate Thursday in the Dozen)
~ 12th Day / Christmas Eve – (Dec 24)
Christmas Day – (Dec 25)
12 Days of Christmas – (Dec 26 – Jan 6)
~ 1st Day / Feast of Stephen – (Dec 26) Celebration of the first martyr.
~ 6th Day / New Year’s Eve – (Dec 31)
~ 7th Day / New Year’s Day / Resolution Day – (Jan 1)
~ 12th Day / Epiphany – (Jan 6) Commemoration of the Adoration of the Magi and interfaith communion.
Winter Interval Season
(January 7 – January 30)
12 Days of Defiance – (Jan 7 – 18) Celebration of various forms of moral defiance, time for the colors blue and green.
~ 1st Day / Feast of Lucian – (Jan 7) Celebration of St. Lucian, teacher of Arius.
~ 6th Day / John Hancock Day – (Jan 12) Celebration of John Hancock, Unitarian signer of the American Declaration of Independence.
~ Defiance Thursday – (Ultimate Thursday in the Dozen)
~ 7th – 12th Day / Nika Week – (Jan 13-18) Commemoration of the joining of the Blues and Greens to defy Emperor Justinian, and the slaughter of Blues and Greens that followed.
12 Days of Action – (Jan 19-30) Celebration of various forms of defiant action, time for the colors of red and white.
~ 1st Day / Feast of the International Family – (Jan 19) Commemoration of the family of Saints Maris and Martha, aristocratic Persians who emigrated to Rome to assist Christians being persecuted there. These two and their sons were tortured and executed for their good deeds.
~ 6th Day / Sleds and Cannons – (Jan 24) Commemoration of the remarkably speedy arrival in Cambridge, Mass., of Henry Knox and the cannons of Fort Ticonderoga in just 56 days. After a heavy snowfall threatened to slow the transport, Knox’s patriots resorted to sleds, transforming a seeming setback into a boon by accomodating providence rather than resisting it.
~ 7th Day / Spear King Day – (Jan 25) Commemoration of the death of Arian king Geiseric who, despite persecution of Unitarian Arians, gave Catholics freedom of religion under his reign and established a progressive tax system, providing relief to the common people.
~ Action Thursday – (Ultimate Thursday in the Dozen)
~ 12th Day / Day of the Spark – (Jan 30) Commemoration of the delivery of the Discourse on Submission by proto-Unitarian minister Jonathan Mayhew on the 100th anniversary of the execution of King Charles I in 1649. This sermon, called the spark that ignited the American Revolution by John Adams, unravelled the scriptural underpinning of the divine right of kings.
CANDLEMAS – (First Thursday in February) Celebration of the childhood of Jesus, including his presentation at the Temple and later Disputation with the Elders of the Temple.
Earliest/latest start date: January 22 – February 25
12 Days of Carnival – Celebration preceding Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.
~ 1st Day / Carnival Thursday
~ 8th Day / Music Thursday – Celebration of Joyful Music.
Fat Tuesday – (Day after the 12th Day of Carnival) The culmination of the Carnival festivities, and an independent holiday like Christmas not falling within a dozenal.
Earliest/latest start date: February 4 – March 10
12 Days of Ash – An introduction to Lent, during which our most powerful acts of penitence should take place.
~ 1st Day / Ash Wednesday – A day to begin the fast of Lent, the foreheads are marked with an ashen cross or sword.
~ 9th Day / Repentance Thursday – The beginning of the final weekend of the 12 Days of Ash, during which acts of extreme charity should take place. It should be stressed that this is a solemn occasion, and not an moment of levity.
~ 12th Day / Ash Sunday – The culmination of the Dozen of extreme penitence.
20 Days of Lent – The interval between the Days of Ash and Days of Passion, the heart of Lent.
12 Days of Holiness – The lead-in to Easter, symbolized by black.
~ 1st Day / Black Sunday – Known in some churches as Passion Sunday. In Reform Unitarianism, since the Passion takes place after the dozenal in which this Sunday falls, Passion imagery is avoided during this period.
~ 5th Day / Holiness Thursday – AUR observation of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
~ 8th Day / Palm Sunday – The traditional date of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
~ 12th Day / GARDEN THURSDAY – Commemoration of Jesus’ Holiness, his acceptance of God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane. One of the Four Great Thursdays of American Reform Unitarianism.
Crucifixion Friday – Lamentation of the execution of Jesus, symbolized with crimson.
Vigil Saturday – Commemoration of the Harrowing of Hell, and the solemn recognition of purgative universalism.
Earliest/latest start date: March 22 – April 25
Easter Sunday – Commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus, marked by pastel colors symbolizing new life.
12 Days of Blessings – Celebration of renewed Hope, beginning the 1st Thursday after Easter.
~ 1st Day / Easter Thursday – Can be taken as a hiatus after the liturgically busy weekend.
~ 8th Day / Joyful Thursday – (Second Thursday after Easter)
12 Days of Trust – Celebration of renewed Faith.
~ 10th Day / Loyal Thursday – (Fourth Thursday after Easter)
12 Days of Commission – Celebration of the Christian Commission.
~ 12th Day / ASCENSION THURSDAY – Celebration of the Ascension of Jesus, one of the Four Great Thursdays of American Reform Unitarianism. A day to renew our dedication to Christian Love.
Earliest/latest start date: May 10 – June 13
12 Days of Pentecost – Celebration of fruition of one’s efforts, both material and spiritual.
~ 1st Day / Pentecost Sunday – (10th Day after Ascension)
~ 5th Day / Fruitful Thursday – Celebration of material success, the results of law and knowledge.
~ 12th Day / Salvation Thursday – Celebration of spiritual success, the results of wisdom and life.
Spring Interval (Rose) Season
(May 20 – June 24)
12 Days of Trial (or Thorns) – (May 20 – May 31) Focusing on tragic errors of the past. American Memorial Day falls during this Dozen.
~ 1st Day / Lucifer’s Day – (May 20) Marking the anniversary of the First Council of Nicaea in which the Josiac error of conflating the Logos and God was repeated. This is also the traditional feast day of Lucifer Calaritanus, one of the principle proponents of this error against Christian monotheism.
~ 2nd Day / Constantine’s Eve – (May 21) The traditional feast day of Constantine who supported Christianity politically after a vision allegedly aided his bloody power struggle for control of the Roman Empire. This is a day to contemplate errors of superficiality without substance.
~ 3rd Day / Constantine’s Day – (May 22) The anniversary of the death of Constantine, who was baptized on his deathbed by Unitarian bishop Eusebius. This is a day to contemplate finding subtance after superficiality.
~ 6th Day / Attacks on Reason – (May 25) Commemorating the Scopes Trial and Edict of Worms.
~ 9th Day / Attacks on Innocence – (May 28) Commemorating the Jacksonian Removals.
~ Tribulation Thursday – The Ultimate Thursday, for commemorating the trials and tragedies on the path to success.
~ 12th Day / Godiva Day – (May 31) the Christ-like story of Lady Godiva reminds us that pattern of trial and sacrifice are engineered into the workings of the world.
12 Days of Unity (or Buds) – (June 1 – June 12) Rose symbolism: just as the rose has a sweet scent and thorns, these 12 Days are to remember the rewards and perils of belief.
~ 1st Day / Feast of Justin Martyr – (June 1) Celebrating the earliest Christian apologist, whose doctrine of the Logos explained that the Son is clearly subordinate to the God the Father.
~ 2nd Day / Zealous Errors – (June 2) To remember with humility that evil acts are often committed in the name of good. Among such acts falling on this day are the Arian Vandals’ pillaging of Rome, the beginning of guilty verdicts in the Salem Witch Trials, and the start of the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution.
~ 6th Day / Conviction Day – (June 6) To commemorate those who stand up boldly for their convictions, such as Patrick Henry and Robert Kennedy, both of whom died on this day.
~ 7th Day / False Conviction Day – (June 7) To remember that often our bold convictions may be misplaced. The seige of Jerusalem (during the 1st Crusade) occurred on this day.
~ Unity Thursday – The Ultimate Thursday in the Dozen, for officially commemorating the rewards and perils of belief.
~12th Day / Criticism Day – (June 12) To remember the perils of moral criticism and resistance. On this day in 1775, a general amnesty declared in Massachussetts excluded Sam Adams and John Hancock, who were to be hanged for their resistance to the Crown. This was also the traditional feast day of John of Sahagún who was persecuted, and possibly murdered, for his criticism of the wealthy and powerful. Also on this date, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964 for resisting Apartheid, and Ronald Reagan spoke at the Brandenburg Gate demanding the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1987.
12 Days of Reconciliation (or Flowers) – (June 13 – June 24) To commemorate the growth and transition enabled by bringing together seemingly opposed entities.
~ 1st Day / Marriage Day – (June 13) The day Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora wed in defiance of the celibacy rule of the Catholic Church. Also the first day after interracial marriage bans were declared unconstitutional in the United States in 1967.
~ 2nd Day / Flag Day – (June 14) To honor the reconciliation of the many into the one, as the many states represented by the stars and stripes are joined in the Republic.
~ 3rd Day / Feast of the Bolt – (June 15) This is the feast day of St. Vitus who protected against lightning, and the anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s famous experiment proving that lightning is electricity. A day to meditate on the lightning imagery in Luke 17:22-24, and the universal material applicability of abstract and spiritual ideas. Some events on this day that exemplify this are the signing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215, which instantly spread new legal rights throughout his kingdom, and the appointment of George Washington as commander-in-chief in 1775, which instantly established his authority throughout the Continental Army.
~ 4th Day / Moral Economy – (June 16) Commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech on the division driven by economic and moral interests. Also the birthday of Adam Smith, whose moral and economic theories were based on the reconciliation of moral ends and selfish economy.
~ 9th Day / Transition Day – (June 21) Commemorates the birthday and transition of Reinhold Niebuhr from pacifist to Christian Realist. This is the day on which to meditate on the reconciliation of peace and war in justice, and the development of naive, immature idealism (which blindly opposes others) into a mature, balanced morality. This is also the Summer Solstice, marking the transition of the year from youth to maturity.
~ Rose Thursday – The Ultimate Thursday of the Dozen.
~ 12th Day / Feast of John the Baptist – (June 24) Celebrating John the Baptist, who marked the transition from the youthful religion before him to the mature religion of Christ after.
Earliest/latest date: July 1 – July 7
DECLARATION THURSDAY – (First Thursday in July) Celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on Thursday, July 4th 1776, and the moral conviction, courage, and faith that this act exemplifies. This is a day to honor the famous Unitarians (both nominal and theological) who played significant roles in this document, including the first signer John Hancock, and the “ablest advocate” of American independence. One of the Four Great Thursdays of American Unitarian Reform.
Summer Interval Season
(July – September)
This is a true “down season” in the liturgical calendar, a gap between the Declaration Thursday and the All Hallows / Thanksgiving introduction to the Calendar. For this reason, many of them have only Ultimate Thursdays. During the Summer Interval, the 12th may be the Ultimate Thursday of a Dozen if it has no other significance. Many of the Dozens are dedicated to inter-faith outreach.
12 Days of Fellowship (Buddhism) – (July 8 – 19)
~ Fellowship with Buddhism – The Ultimate Thursday of the Dozen, celebrating the beginning of Gautama Buddha’s ministry, roughly to coincide with Asalha Puja Day. This is a day for outreach to Buddhists.
12 Days of Fellowship (Judaism) – (July 20 – 31)
~ Fellowship with Judaism – The Ultimate Thursday of the Dozen, commemorating the destruction of the Second Temple by Rome on July 29th or 30th 70 CE. This is a day for outreach to Jews.
12 Days of Caution – (August 1 – August 12)
1st Day / Melville Day – Birth of Herman Melville. In years when two Thursdays fall into this Dozen, reserve the first for quoting Melville’s religious and moral passages, particularly his “sword-points” discussion on the Civil War.
~ Adrianopolis Day – The Ultimate Thursday of the Dozen, commemorating the conflict between Unitarian Goths and the Unitarian Emperor Valens, who death at the Battle of Adrianopolis on August 9th 378 opened the way for the Persecutions of Nicene Emperor Theodosius.
12 Days of Fellowship (Indigenous Americans) – (August 13 – August 24)
~ Fellowship with Indigenous America – Commemorating the establishment of the Maya Calendar, August 13th 3114 BCE, and celebrating the long history of civilization in the Americas.
12 Days of Fellowship (Hinduism) – (August 25 – September 3)
~ Fellowship with Hinduism – Celebrating the birth of Krishna, roughly to coincide with Janmashtami. This is a day for outreach to Hindus.
12 Days of Fellowship (Islam) – (September 4 – September 15)
~ Fellowship with Islam – Commemorating the beginning of the Hijra on Thursday, September 9th 622 CE. This is a day for outreach to Muslims.
~ 12th Day / Taft Day – Celebrating the birthday of William Howard Taft, Unitarian President and Chief Justice of the United States.
12 Open Days – (September 16 – September 27)
12 Days of Exegesis – (September 28 – October 9)
~ Jonathan Mayhew Day – The Ultimate Thursday of the Dozen, celebrating the birth on October 8th 1720 of the Father of American Unitarianism, Reverend Jonathan Mayhew, who is reported to have penned the slogan “No Taxation Without Representation.” Mayhew also wrote the sermon Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission that effectively unravelled the scriptural arguments underpenning the Divine Right of Kings, leading eventually to the American Revolution.