Worship in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland follows the church year of western Christendom (similar to that of Anglicans and Roman Catholics). Specific Bible readings and prayers have been assigned to each Sunday and church holiday of the year.
The church year (ecclesiastical year, kirkkovuosi in Finnish and kyrkoåret in Swedish) begins on the First Sunday in Advent, which is the Sunday between the 27th of November and the 3rd of December. The most important church holidays come during the first half of the church year:
- Christmas (joulu in Finnish, jul in Swedish = ”Yule” in Old English, on the 25th of December),
- Easter (pääsiäinen in Finnish, påsk in Swedish; in March or April, the date varies from year to year), and
- Pentecost (Whitsunday, helluntai in Finnish, pingst in Swedish; seven weeks after Easter).
These and other holidays recount important events in the life of Jesus Christ and the beginning of Christianity.
The last Sunday of the church year, known in Finland and Sweden as ”Judgment Sunday,” is between the 20th and 26th of November. A new church year begins on the following Sunday.
Sunday is the day of the week when Jesus rose from the dead early at dawn. Every Sunday of the church year is actually a ”little Easter.” Some church holidays, however, are on other days of the week. Christmas Day and the Epiphany have fixed dates, so they can be on any day of the week. Good Friday, the day of Jesus' death, is obviously on a Friday. Ascension Day is always on a Thursday. Midsummer Festival (St. John's) and All Saints' Day are celebrated in Finland on a Saturday.
Furthermore, Finns have a tendency to celebrate important festivals on the ”Eve” of the holiday (the evening before, aatto in Finnish), and traditional foods associated with certain holidays are eaten long before the festival day comes. A time of fasting (Lent) before Easter is marked in the church calendar, but only a few people in Finland actually fast in any way at that time.
This website provides English-language lists of Finnish Lutheran church holidays for a year or two. In the menu on the left, select the year you wish to view. Besides the date and English name of each Sunday and church holiday, references are given for one or two of the Bible readings designated for that day in the ELCF worship manual. The Bible readings often give a clue to the theme of the worship service and the sermon.
Please note when using the calendars: in the Church of England and in Lutheran churches in North America, the Sunday following Easter is the ”Second Sunday of Easter,” and the next one is ”Third Sunday of Easter” etc., but in Finland the Sundays following Easter are named and numbered differently, so that the Sunday following Easter is the ”First Sunday after Easter Day,” and the next one is the “Second Sunday after Easter Day” etc.
Also note: it was a custom in Finland for centuries that four “prayer days” were decreed each year in the name of the government or head of state. In many congregations, the decree has been read in church on New Year's Day. Bible readings have been specially designated to be the texts of the sermon on a “prayer day.” This practice of four annual prayer days ended in 2007. From 2008 onward there have been only two such special days, the first to coincide with the international Week of prayer for Christian unity (January 18-25) and the second to coincide with the Ecumenical Development Education Week (vastuuviikko) in October. These days are not included in the calendars on this website.