About The Coptic Calendar

The Coptic calendar is based on the ancient Egyptian calendar. The Egyptians divided a year in the beginning to twelve months, based on their knowledge about the stars. Later they discovered the year of the sun and begun to use it. With the time they added a new month with five days and called in the Little month. This made their year to 365 days long. The calendar was adjusted in year 238 B.C, when there was also added a sixth day to the Little month every fourth year, during the leap years. The months kept its names and the Copts used the same structure on the year, which is still used today in the Coptic church.
The Egyptians called the months after their Gods and chose their names depending on the agricultural activities. The Egyptian calendar is divided to three period, with four months in every period.
  • The season of the inundation of the river Nile (Thoout to Koiahk)
  • The season of sowing (Tobe to Parmoute)
  • The season of harvesting (Pashons to Mesore)

The Coptic Months

MonthStartStart (In Leap Years)
Thoout11 September12 September
Paope11 October12 October
Hathor10 November11 November
Koiahk10 December11 December
Tobe 9 January10 January
Meshir8 February 9 February
Paremhotep10 Mars-
Parmoute9 April-
Pashons9 May-
Paone8 June-
Epep8 July-
Mesore7 August-
Little Month6 September-

The coptic calender could also sometimes be called “The calendar of martyrs” because the church is well-know of its many martyrs. The chronology in the calendar of martyrs started in year 284 A.D. and honours the thousands of Christians that were tortured and persecuted during the reign of Diocletian, that became a roman emperor during that year.

Traditionally the calendars were called after the regent when the calendar started. However, the Coptic people did not want to name the calendar after Diocletian, because it would honor him. Instead, they wanted to honor the many martyrs who sacrificed their lives for their faith. In 305 A.D. when Diocletian’s died, the Coptic people continued to count on the calendar of martyrs.

The Coptic Feasts

The Coptic church is filled with joy and feasts, with many deep and sweet hymns. Every year the church celebrates fourteen feasts concerning Jesus Christ and his life on earth. The church divides these feasts to two parts: ”The seven Major Feast of Our Lord” and “The seven Minor Feasts of Our Lord”. The difference between these two is that the major feasts are necessary for the salvation of humanity.

The Seven Major Feast of Our Lord

1. Annunciation Feast

The Annuciation Feast on Paremhotep 29 c. April 7. In it we recall the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, and the attainment which the men of God had longed for across the ages, namely the coming of the Word of God incarnated in the Virgin’s womb.

2. The Holy Nativity Feast

The Holy Nativity Feast on Koiahk 29 c. January 7 and it is preceded by a fast of 43 days long. The aim of the feast is to confirm the divine love when God sent his only incarnated begotten Son. The Holy Nativity Feast marks when He restored humanity to her honor, and sanctified our daily life, offering His life as a Sacrifice on our behalf. The Coptic Orthodox church as many other orthodox churches follows the Julian calendar, which is after the Gregorian calendar with 13 days, which is for example used in Sweden. Therefore, the Coptic orthodox church celebrate Nativity January 7 and not December 25.

3. The Holy Epiphany

The Holy Epiphany on Tobe 11 c. January 7 take place thirteen days after the Nativity. In Coptic Epiphany means ” Divine Appearance”. In it we celebrate the baptism of Jesus in the river of Jordan och the appearance of the Holy Trinity: The voice of the Father from heaven declaring: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”, the Holy Spirit as a dove and the Son in the river of Jordan.

4. Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the Sunday that proceeds Easter. Another word for this feast is Hosanna Sunday. The church calls this feast for Hosanna Sunday because Christ entered Jerusalem as a king to save his people and as a flawless lamb bear the sin of the world. Hosanna comes from the Hebrew word hoshiah-na and means “Save us”, which is the same word as the Greek Osanna.

5. Resurrection

The Resurrection is a moveable feast on the calendar and falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. During the Resurrection, the church celebrates the resurrected Christ, that through his death trampled death and gave us eternal life. The Resurrection is regarded as the feast of feasts and is celebrated for fifty days until Pentecost. In addition, the resurrection of Christ is remembered every Sunday on the year.

6. The Holy Fest of Ascension

The feast is celebrated forty days after Resurrection and falls on a Thursday. During this feast, we remember Christ’s journey to heaven with flesh after He revealed himself to the disciples and others after the resurrection for forty days.

7. The Holy Pentacost Feast

The feast falls fifty days after Easter and represents the birth of the Christian church. It was during this day that God sent His Holy Spirit in the form of for example tongues of fire. These tongues were distributed to the disciples, stayed on them, and allowed them to speak other languages. He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in her, offering her existence, guidance, sanctification and adornment as the Heavenly Bride

The Seven Minor Feast of Our Lord

1. Circumcision

The feast proceeds the Nativity with 8 days on Tobe 6 c. January 14, by which we remember that the Word of God who gave us the Law, He Himself was subjected to this Law, fulfilling it, to grant us the power to fulfil the Law in a spiritual manner. Since a boy in the jewish tradition would circumcise on the eighth day after birth.

2. Entrance Into the Temple

Entrance into the Temple is celebrated on Meshir 8 c. February 15. During this feast, we celebrate the day when Jesus was brought into the temple as a child and was carried by Simeon who praised God and said: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:28-32).

3. Escape Into Egypt

This feast falls on Pashons 24 c. June 1. The Coptic Church or Egypt precisely is distinguished among all nations with this unique divine work, by the coming of our Lord to Egypt among the Gentiles.

4. Wedding of Cana of Galilee

The feast falls on Tobe 13 c. January 12, where the church celebrates Christ’s first miracle when he converted water into wine during the wedding in Cana.

5. Transfiguration

Transfiguration is celebrated on Mesore 13 c. August 19 and shows the unity of the two testaments was manifested in this feast, for Moses and Elijah assembled together with Peter, James and John. The Glory of our Lord was revealed to satisfy every soul who rises up with Him to the mountain of Tabor to enjoy the brightness of His Glory.

6. Holy Thursday

This is the Thursday of the Holy week. In it we commemorate the establishment of the Sacrament of Eucharist by our Lord Jesus, when He offered His Body and Blood as the living and effective Sacrifice, capable of sanctifying our hearts, granting us the victorious and eternal life.

7. Thomas Sunday

This is the Sunday that follows Easter; In it we bless those who believe without seeing the wonders of God, in memory of the disciple Thomas who wanted to see to believe.

Monthly Feasts

Every month the believers celebrate the commemoration of the Annunciation, Nativity, and Resurrection of Christ on the 29th of every Coptic month. In addition, a commemoration of the Virgin Mary the 21st is celebrated of every Coptic month and a commemoration of the Archangel Michael on the 12th of every Coptic month.

Weekly Feasts

Every Sunday stands as a true Sabbath (rest), in which we find our rest in the resurrection of Christ. There is no abstention from food on Sundays after the celebration of the Eucharist, even during Great Lent.

The Feasts of The Saints

There is almost a daily feast, so that the believers may live in perpetual joy and in communion with the saints. In addition, there are other special fasts and occasions:

The Feasts of the Holy Virgin Mary

The Coptic Church venerates St. Mary as the “Theotokos,” i.e., the Mother of God, whom the Divine Grace chose to bear the Word of God in her womb by the Holy Spirit. The Church is constantly asking for her intercession. Her main feasts are:
  • The annunciation of her birth (Mesore 7, c.August 13)
  • Her Nativity (Pashons 1, c. May 9)
  • Her Presentation into the Temple (Koiahk 3,c.December 12)
  • Her Dormant (Tobe 21, c. January 29)
  • The Assumption of her body (Paone 21, c. June 28)
  • Her apparition over the Church of Zeitoon (Paremhotep 24, c. April 2)
  • The apparition of her body to the Apostles (Mesore 16, c. August 22)

The Apostles’ Feast

The feast occurs Abib 5 c. July 12 every year. This is the feast of martyrdom of the Apostles SS. Peter and Paul. It is preceded by a fasting period which starts on the day following the Pentecost.

The Nayrouz Feast

Occurs on the first day of the Coptic year ie. September 11. The word “Nayrouz” is Persian, meaning “the beginning of the year.” The Egyptian calendar has existed for a long time and the Copts restored the calendar with the beginning of Diocletian’s reign to honour the martyrs that were departed during this era.

The Two Feasts of the Cross

The first feast is on Thoout 17 (c. September 27). It commemorates the dedication of the Church of the Holy Cross, which was built by Queen Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine. The second feast is on Barmahat 10 (c. March 19) and commemorates the discovery of the Holy Cross on the hands of the same empress in A.D 326.

The Church Fasts

The Coptic tradition prescribe the believer to fast over six months a year. During this period the believer should not eat animalic products (except for some days, when you can eat fish).

The Weekly Fast

Weekly the church fasts Wednesdays and Fridays, Wednesdays as a memory of Christ’s betrayal by Judas and Fridays as a memory of the crucifixion. An exception is made for Wednesdays and Fridays between Easter and Pentecost, since fast is unacceptable during the Holy fiftieth filled by joy.

Fasting Before Christmas

Before Christmas, the church fast 43 days, 40 days for the time when Moses fasted in aim to receive the ten commandments, and 3 days for the time that the people fasted to move the El-Muqattam mountain. Each Sunday, a part of the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke is read where we can read about the promise of John the Baptist’s birth, the message to Mary about Jesus’ birth, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, and John the Baptist’s birth.

The Fast of Ninevah

The Fast of Ninevah occurs for three days and three nights, referring to Jonah’s fast, while he was inside the whale’s belly. The fasting period starts Monday, two weeks before the first Monday of the Great Lent. It coincides just before the Great Lent to remind us to purify our hearts through repentance and prayer. During the Lent, the Church reads prophecies from Jonah’s book in the Old Testament.

The Great Lent

The Great Fast is called the fasting period before Easter, which is the longest unifying fast within the Coptic Orthodox Church, consisting of 55 days. It was Pope Demetrios, the twelfth Pope, who calculated the length of the fast and determined how to calculate the Resurrection date. The first week of the fasting period is a week of preparation. Then the church fast for 40 days and 40 nights, for the time when Jesus fasted after his baptism. In addition, seven days are added for the last week of Jesus life on earth, also called Holy Week. Great Lent is counted as the holiest fast because Jesus Himself fasted it. During the Lent, the Church reads the scriptures below to remind us that we must repent to Jesus Christ and purify our hearts through repentance and prayer to receive God’s mercy and strength.

  • First Sunday of Great Lent: Treasures in heaven
  • Second Sunday of Great Lent: Temptation
  • Third Sunday of Great Lent: The lost son
  • Fourth Sunday of Great Lent: The Samaritan woman
  • Fifth Sunday of Great Lent: The paralyzed man
  • Sixth Sunday of Great Lent: The man who was born blind
  • Seventh Sunday of Great Lent: Palm Sunday
During the Holy Week, the church is decorated in black to remind us of the sufferings Jesus suffered to forgive the sins of humanity.

The Fast of the Apostles

We fast the apostle fast from Pentecost until June 12. The Pentecost occurs fifty days after the resurrection and therefore the fast does not have a set length.

The Fast of the Holy Virgin

This fast take place fifteen days before the celebration of the Holy Virgin Mary feast on the twenty second of August. The fast lasts from 1st Mesore to 16th Mesore (7th-22nd August).

Paramoun of Christmas and Epiphany

In other words, the fast is two days long (Friday and Saturday) if it falls on a Saturday, and three days long if it falls on a Sunday (Friday – Sunday).