I CAME TO CANADA IN MAY 1961 AT THE AGE OF 18. DURING
THE WINTER OF 1961/62 I WAS CHALLENGED BY THE PREACHING
OF THE RADIO CHURCH OF GOD (LATER TO BE THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH
OF GOD) CONCERNING THE "CHRISTIAN" SUNDAY AND 98 PERCENT
OF ITS OTHER FESTIVALS (PENTECOST BE THE EXCEPTION) AS
COMING FROM PAGANISM AND THE TRADITIONS OF THE ROMAN
CATHOLIC CHURCH AND COULD NOT BE FOUND THE SCRIPTURES OF
THE FIRST BOOK I READ AT THE LOCAL LIBRARY WAS
"CHRISTIAN FEASTS AND CUSTOMS" BY FRANCIS WEISER.
IT BLEW ME AWAY WITH CANDID UPFRONT WORDS IN EXPOUNDING
ALL THE COMMON AND NOT SO COMMON FEASTS DAYS OF THE
I WAS SO PLEASED TO OBTAIN ONE OF THE FEW COPIES
REMAINING IN THE WORLD OF THIS BOOK, NOW OUT OF PRINT.
IT IS MY PLEASURE TO REPRODUCE THIS BOOK ON THIS
WEBSITE - Keith Hunt
FRANCIS X. WEISER, S.J., was born in Vienna in 1901, studied at
Munich and Innsbruck, and received his doctorate of theology from
the Gregorian University in Rome. In 1931 he came to this country
for special studies. After six years' work as leader in the
Catholic Youth movement of Austria, he returned to America in
1938. He was pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Boston from 1943 to
1950. From 1950 to 1961, Father Weiser, now an American citizen,
taught at Emmanuel College in Boston. He is presently Professor
of Philosophy at Boston College.
CHRISTIAN FEASTS AND CUSTOMS
Francis X. Weiser
Preface by John Wright, Bishop of Worcester
Out of his vast knowledge of liturgy and folklore Weiser has now
compiled a welcome guide for laymen and clergymen who wish full
information and understanding of the feasts, customs, holydays,
and holidays of the "Year of the Lord." Written with reverence
and great warmth, it is a work that will do much to inspire
fruitful celebration in the church and home, while it is also
useful as a convenient and singular work of reference.
Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs combines material from
three of Father Weiser's widely praised previous volumes: The
Christmas Book, The Easter Book, and The Holyday Book. Entirely
reset and considerably rearranged for practical reference, this
volume contains new chapters and passages that comprise more than
one-third of the volume; they complete the whole radiant cycle of
the liturgical year.
In his preface to the volume, Bishop Wright of Worcester says:
"For the casual reader, this new work presents an easy,
convenient, genuinely entertaining approach to the thrilling
story of Christian life in the liturgical calendar. For the
discerning student, there is a wealth of reference material. . .
The Handbook o f Christian Feasts and Customs is destined to
become a classic in its field."
FRANCIS X. WEISER
Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs
The Year of the Lord in Liturgy and Folklore
OFFICIALY WITHDRAWN EAGLE PUBLIC LIBRARY
THOSE who wish to grow in knowledge and love of the Christian
life will surely welcome Weiser's Handbook of Christian Feasts
and Customs. For the casual reader, this new work presents an
easy, convenient, genuinely entertaining approach to the
thrilling story of Christian life in the liturgical calendar. For
the discerning student, there is a wealth of reference material
in the scholarly and exhaustive development of the ecclesiastical
celebrations and of the folklore inspired by the liturgical
Each "Year of the Lord," with its feasts and celebrations, is the
living voice of our Christian faith. There is no facet of Divine
Revelation which is not somehow reflected in the Church calendar.
Indeed, the passing seasons unfold a colorful tapestry in which
are woven the strands of Church history, of Christian cult, of
moral and dogmatic theology. And there is always fresh drama as
each feast or season tells the ageless story of the life of
Christ, or recalls the "fulness of Christ" in Mary and in other
saints. All this, Weiser has captured for his readers in a truly
The faith of a people is eloquently expressed in folklore and in
national customs and traditions. Nowhere will we find a more
effective or more concise development of this theme than in this
book. Present-day observances of the great Christian feasts have
their roots in many lands. Weiser presents a fascinating study of
this subject as he explores the origin and explains the
significance of the popular customs and celebrations by which the
central mysteries of the faith are brought close to the lives of
The Handbook o f Christian Feasts and Customs is destined to
become a classic in its field. May it be for many the key to a
devout and meaningful observance of the Year of the Lord.
March 31, 1958.
JOHN WRIGHT Bishop of Worcester
THIS BOOK was written to explain the origin, history,
development, and observance of our Christian feasts throughout
the "Year of the Lord." In addition to the liturgical aspect of
these feasts, their celebration in folklore is also presented.
The radiation of liturgy has created many symbols, customs, and
traditions that have enriched the observance of festive days and
seasons in home and community, and remnants of pre-Christian lore
have, in most cases, assumed new meanings and motivations through
the influence of liturgical thought and celebration.
Classified within the vast field of knowledge, this book presents
a compendium of heortology, the historical science that explains
the origin and meaning of feasts. The word "heortology" is
derived from the Greek heorte (feast) and logos (discourse). This
work, then, is primarily intended as a historical explanation of
general interest and as a source book of information.
The feasts of saints were selected on the basis of their
celebration as holydays or holidays and because their folklore
traditions are still alive in large groups of the population.
Some purely liturgical feasts of recent date (Sacred Heart,
Christ the King, Holy Name, Holy Family), which have not yet
developed an established pattern of popular observance in homes
or communities, have been omitted.
Writings on the liturgical year often employ, under the term
"cycles," the twofold division that the Roman Missal and Breviary
use in the arrangement of liturgical texts - the "temporal" cycle
and the "sanctoral" cycle. This division of the official texts is
based on the necessity of separating dated celebrations from
those that are not held on the same calendar date. Actually, as
Godfrey Diekmann, O.S.B., has pointed out, "there is only one
cycle in the liturgical year, the cycle of Christ's redemptive
work. Because of artificial divisions of terminology we are apt
to consider the saints independently instead of being aware in
every case that the Saint's Day is really a reflection and minor
realization of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ."
The division into "cycles" is not used in this book. Its three
parts represent merely external aspects in the observance of the
one, and only, cycle of the liturgical year. The parts are: the
celebrations based on natural time units and seasons of the year,
the celebrations based on the commemoration of Christ's
redemptive work, and the celebrations based on the result and
fruit of the Lord's redemption in and through His saints.
The book combines material of three previously published works
(The Christmas Book, The Easter Book, and The Holyday Book),
augmented by a number of chapters and individual passages. The
first part is almost entirely new. In most of the other chapters
the passages on history and liturgy were enlarged by additional
details, and the subject matter was rearranged to fit the purpose
of a reference work. Popular items of restricted interest
contained in the three books mentioned above, such as recipes,
music, and poems, were omitted. Only those poems were retained
that serve as examples for particular customs or liturgical
Many details of religious and nonreligious folklore are given
without reference to printed source material. This information
the author has accumulated in the course of years through
personal contact with experts on the folklore of various national
groups. Much material was also collected through personal
observation and study in central Europe, Italy, Ireland, and in
the countries of the Near East.
A book like this must of necessity, and repeatedly, employ
certain terms that are quite familiar to some readers and not so
to others. For the convenience of the latter an alphabetical
dictionary of terms may be found at the end of the volume.
Reference notes will be found at the end of each chapter. The
reader will also find occasional repetition of information or
definition. This has been done to obviate the need for cross
references and, therefore, to make the book easier to use as a
The author is gratefully indebted to His Excellency, Bishop John
Wright of Worcester, Massachusetts, for the preface to the book.
Acknowledgment for valuable help in the research on national
folklore is due especially to Rev. Gregory Tom (Ukrainians), Rev.
Claude Klarkowski (Poland), Rev. Vicente Beneyto, S.J. (Spain),
Gediminas Kijauskas, S.J. (Lithuania), Sr. Marie Margarita,
S.N.D. (France), Mrs. Hannah J. Ford (Ireland), Joaquin Herrero,
S.J. (South America), Rev. Zeno Vendler, S.J., and Lajos A.
Szathmary (Hungary), Mr. and Mrs. Michael Topjian (Armenia),
Stanley Marrow, S.J. (Near East), Rev. James L. Monks, S.J.
(Eastern Churches), Rev. Richard Brackett, S.J., and Lars Lund
(Scandinavia), Rev. John Correia-Afonso, S.J. (India).
Acknowledgment is also due to Edward C. Currie and Rev. Martin F.
McCarthy, S.J., for assistance in research on music, to Miss Anne
Ford and Miss Margaret O'Loughlin for help in preparing the
This book is dedicated, as a belated but sincere token of
gratitude, to my former professor at the University of Innsbruck
(Austria), the Rev. Joseph A. Jungmann, S.J. The lasting
influence of his personality and example no less than his
masterful teaching inspired me, as it did many others of his
former students, to attempt a modest contribution to the great
task of making the treasures of holy liturgy better known and
appreciated. May this handbook not only be useful to anyone
seeking information and understanding of our feasts and folklore,
but also help toward a joyful and fruitful celebration in our
churches, hearts and homes.
FRANCIS X. WEISER, S.J.
Weston College, Weston, Massachusetts.
WELLLLL..... YOU WILL SEE HOW REVEALING THIS BOOK IS, AND HOW THE
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH COULD ADOPT FROM PAGANISM, AS WELL AS MAKE-
UP FEASTS, HENCE MAKING SO MANY THAT EVEN THE CASUAL READER WILL
EASILY SEE WERE NEVER A PART OF SCRIPTURE. OF COURSE THE ROMAN
CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS NO PROBLEM WITH ALL OF THIS AS THEY CLAIM
THEY HAVE INSPIRATION FROM GOD, HANDED DOWN TO THE POPE, AND
BISHOPS, SO MAKING EVERY FEAST OF THEIR LITURGICAL YEAR
SANCTIONED AND INSPIRED BY GOD IN HEAVEN.