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In the Catholic Church, holy days of obligation or holydays of obligation or holidays of obligation or 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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
§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 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.
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 three holy days of obligation that are also public holidays: Christmas, Epiphany and All Saints', leaving it with six 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.
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. 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.
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.
(See Liturgy Office)
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 transferred to a Sunday. 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 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.
(See "Working holy days", above)
(See "Working holy days", above)
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 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:
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 a Monday, the precept to attend Mass on that date is abrogated (rescinded).
Note 2: 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.
Note 3: 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 United States bishops dispense from the obligation to attend Mass on the day of the transferred celebration. Where the 1962 extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is in use, the Immaculate Conception, as a First-Class Feast, outranks Sundays of Advent and so remains on 8 December.