Advent Embertide: Winter – All You Need to Know About Advent Ember Days

advent embertide

We have the opportunity to observe Ember days 4 times a year.   Advent Embertide is a special time to fast and pray before the birth of our Lord. 

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven … A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”  

Ecclesiastes 3:1

The term “Ember” is derived from the Latin term Quatuor Tempora, which means four times.

And so the Ember days occur in the four seasons: spring, summer, winter and autumn.

Aside from the general purpose of praying and fasting, which are meritorious in itself, the Church found itself contending with the pagan practices of the Roman pagans in the early centuries and looked for a way to sanctify these pagan holidays.  And so the Ember Days were instituted.

“The immediate occasion was the practice of the heathens of Rome. The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class. At the beginning of the time for seeding and harvesting religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage, and in December for the seeding.”  New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

How  Come I Never Heard of Ember Days?

The Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. no longer officially observes Ember Days, but like all penitential practices, we are welcome to do more.

Ember Days are still observed by those who follow the 1962 Missal.

The wonderful thing is that a lot of people are choosing to observe the Ember Days again.

Why Are Ember Days on Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays?

The Jews fasted on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Christians chose to fast on Wednesdays (the day Christ was betrayed), Fridays (the day he was crucified), and Saturday (the day he was buried).

Advent Embertide: Winter

ember days

When Are the Advent Ember Days?

The Advent Ember Days are always on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent).  

Fasting Rules for Advent Embertide

The fasting rules apply to everyone who is 18 years of age through 59 years of age.

How Much Food Can I Eat?
One full meal and two smaller meals, that when combined, do not equal a full meal.

Wednesday of Advent Embertide – Fasting & Partial Abstinence

Partial abstinence: meat is allowed during the main meal of the day.

Friday of Advent Embertide:  Fasting & Abstinence

Full abstinence: No meat is allowed for Latin Rite Catholics.  Fish, eggs and cheese are allowed.

Saturday of Advent Embertide – Fasting & Abstinence

Full abstinence: No meat is allowed for Latin Rite Catholics.  Fish, eggs and cheese are allowed.


Collects of Amber Embertide (1962 Missal)

Wednesday of Ember Week in Advent

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the coming solemnity of our redemption may both confer upon us assistance in this present life and bestow the rewards of everlasting blessedness. Through our Lord.”

Collect of Wednesday  in Ember Week of Advent (1962 Missal)

Friday of Ember Week in Advent


Stir up Thy might, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come: that they who trust in Thy loving kindness may be the more speedily freed from all adversity: Who livest and reignest.


Collect of Friday in Ember Week of Advent (1962 Missal)

Saturday of Ember Week in Advent

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who are bowed down by our old bondage under the yoke of sin, may be freed by the new birth of Thine only begotten Son, for which we look. Who with Thee liveth and reigneth.


Collect of Saturday in Ember Week of Advent (1962 Missal)

Labours of the Month

advent embertide
Labours of the Month – December Falconing

There are various images found in medieval manuscripts that portray the various labors that can be undertaken according to the seasons.

“The Labours of the Months are frequently found as part of large sculptural schemes on churches, and in illuminated manuscripts, especially in the Calendars of late medieval Books of Hours. The manuscripts are important for the development of landscape painting, containing most of the first painting where this was given prominence.”  Wikipedia.

The Cycles for Winter are:

  • December –  Killing pigs, baking
  • January –  Feasting
  • February – sitting by the fire

Even though Ember Days are no longer observed in the United States, it is a beautiful tradition that is newly observed by many Catholics in the world.

Do you observe Ember Days?


Recommended Advent Reading

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