Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs – Patrons’ Feasts

Article

Still another group of holydays is made up of the feasts of those saints who were (and are) special patron saints in certain localities. This group comprises hundreds of saints, often little known to the rest of the world. Every parish, diocese, ecclesiastical province, every religious institution and community has its particular heavenly patron. So have most nations, states, regions, cities, and towns. In each place the feast of the patron saint used to be kept as a true holyday. The present canon law provides for the continuation of this practice, though only from the liturgical aspect; the day of the patron saint may be celebrated as a religious solemnity but not as a holyday of obligation (unless prescribed for the whole Church). In many countries people are still accustomed to the patron’s feast as it used to be kept in past centuries. It is now usually held on the Sunday following the liturgical feast. They observe it with great devotion and rejoicing. The whole day, after the service, is spent in celebration consisting of processions, parades, and traditional pageants, fairs, amusements, banquets, and dancing. This festival is called Kirmes in German, Bucsu in Hungarian, Kermes in Slovak, Pokrove in Russian and Ukrainian, Fete Patronale in French, Fiesta del Patrono in Spanish.

A permanent civic testimony to the patronage of saints is the names of countless towns and cities in all Christian lands. In the United States over ninety cities, towns, and counties bear the names of saints. As might be expected, the most frequent title is that of the Blessed Virgin (Saint Marys, Santa Maria, etc.); then follow the names John (Saint Johns, San Juan, etc.) and Saint Clair (Saint Clare, Santa Clara, etc.).

The most significant patronal feasts are, of course, the days of national patron saints which are celebrated by the faithful of an entire country or race. Liturgically speaking, they are in most cases “secondary” patrons because the Blessed Virgin is the primary patron in the majority of Christian countries. In Catholic nations, and in Catholic sections of Protestant countries, these days are still observed, in some cases even as legal holidays.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weiser, SJ. “Patrons’ Feasts”. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 1952. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 February 2017. Web. 27 May 2017. <>