A Customizable Orthodox Christian Planner

Orthodox Christianity adds richness to so many aspects of our lives. The calendar is just one avenue, but it’s an important one that we might often miss. Sure, we probably know when the major feasts and fasting periods are, but there’s so much more: The forefeast and afterfeast periods help us to orient our thoughts and our prayer lives. Feasts of particular saints or events that are important to us may not show up in the parish bulletin, and we may miss them.

We have a monthly calendar, put out by our diocese, that lists feast days and fast days, but there’s no room to write on it, so we only look at it occasionally. On the other hand, who wants to go through a store-bought calendar and transcribe the important bits from the Church calendar?

To solve that problem, I developed a printable, weekly planner that incorporates the Church calendar, and which can be customized to include all the dates that are important to our family.

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The planner consists of two files, downloadable here:

We’ll get to the Word document in a bit, but first, let me show you the Excel workbook.

The Weekly Planner Excel Workbook

Weeks sheet

The first sheet in this workbook is called Weeks. It lists, for each week (Monday through Sunday), the dates of the days of that week, the fixed holidays that occur on each day of that week, and the movable holidays that occur on each day of that week.

This looks a little complicated, but the only thing you need to change on this sheet is cell A2. Fill in the date of Monday of the first week of the year. (Unless the year happens to start on a Monday, this will be a date in December of the prior year.)

When you change the date, you’ll notice all the other cells of the sheet repopulate with the appropriate dates and holidays.

Holidays-Fixed sheet

The next sheet in the workbook is called Holidays-Fixed. This is where all the fixed holidays are listed. You can remove holidays by deleting any row, or you can add holidays by inserting a row. (If you insert a row, make sure to copy the formula in the Date column.)

The only cells you need to fill out are in the Month, Day, and Holiday columns. Do not enter a date in the Date column; that is calculated based on the Month and Day columns, and the year from the Weeks spreadsheet. (Note that, the dates for the Church calendar are based on the Old Calendar reckoning. If you’re using the New Calendar, you’ll need to adjust the month and day accordingly.)

On this sheet, you can add birthdays, death-days or any other commemorations that fall on a particular calendar date. The dates don’t have to be in order, but it helps when you’re trying to find them later. Also, note that, if you have two commemorations that fall on the same date, you’ll need to enter both names in the same cell. (For example, “Valentines Day” and “Forefeast of Presentation of Christ” in the above image.) You can press Alt+Enter to insert a new line in an Excel cell.

Holidays-Movable sheet

The third sheet is named Holidays-Movable. As you’ve probably guessed, this contains all the holidays that don’t fall on the same calendar date each year.

The Date column for these holidays is a different formula for each one. Most are calculated as a number of days added to or subtracted from the date of Pascha. Civil holidays that always fall on a Monday, (or Election day in the US, which is always the Tuesday after the first Monday in November) are calculated with complex formulae.

You can add or remove holidays from this list. You’ll just need to come up with your own formula for each. Don’t just put a date in the Date column, or it will be wrong next year. (The festal dates on this sheet are universal between Old and New Calendar.)

Important note: If two movable holidays happen to fall on the same day, only one will print on the planner. This is an unfortunate side effect of the way the data is selected. For example, for years where Easter and Great and Holy Friday coincide, only one will print.

Paschal Dates sheet

Finally, we have the table of Paschal dates. This sheet lists the dates of Pascha and (Western) Easter. These are known dates, and there is no need to edit this sheet.

The Weekly Planner Word Document

First-time Setup

Each time you open the Word document, you’ll get the following message:

Click Yes. The Word document gets its data from the Weeks sheet in the Excel workbook, and it’s just asking if you want to update with the latest data.

The first time you open this document, you’ll get the following error:

Click OK. Because you probably didn’t store the files in the same folder I did on my computer, Word doesn’t know where to go to get the data.

Next (the first time you open the document), you’ll get the following dialog box:

You need to adjust the Data Source field to point to the location of the Excel file on your computer. If you’re not sure how to do this, click Cancel, and Word will open a dialog box that will allow you to navigate to the file.

Finally, you’ll need to select the proper worksheet within the file.

Select Weeks$, and then click OK.

Reviewing the Planner

The Word document is designed as a mail merge document. The actual document is only one page, but that page is repeated with variable data for each row in the Excel spreadsheet. To navigate through the weeks, click the Mailings ribbon.

Use the left and right arrows in the Preview Results section to navigate and check for accuracy.

If, instead of dates and holidays, you see things like this…

… click the Preview Results button to show the data instead of the mail merge field codes.

Printing the Planner

When you’re ready to print, you can’t just use File>Print. That will just print the current record you’re looking at. Instead, on the Mailings ribbon, click Finish & Merge and then Print Documents.

Select All and click OK.

Select your printer and click Print.

Modifying the Layout

You can change the fonts or the layout in the Word document as much as you like. Just remember to move the mail merge fields to the appropriate spots. We designed our layout to be hung on the wall, in a landscape orientation. If you want, you can change the orientation, or even the paper size. (Ours used to be 11″×17″.)

When creating this planner, I decided to start the week with Monday, since it’s easier to plan a weekend without having to flip back and forth. Changing the planner to start with Sunday isn’t a simple matter of just rearranging the days in the Word document. Extensive editing of the Weeks sheet in the Excel workbook would be needed to do that.

Using the Printed Planner

We punch three holes in the top of our sheets and then bind them along the top edge with rubber cement. (Tutorials for notepad glue binding can be found online.) On our wall, we have three Command 3M Kitchen Hooks that go through the holes.

Binding the sheets allows us to take the planner off the wall as one unit so we can more easily write family appointments and such. At the start of each week, we simply tear off the top sheet and toss it in the trash recycle it.

You could bind the sheets any number of ways. If you switched to a vertical layout, you could change the format to two pages and print double-sided to give you more room for each day. (You could even do a daily planner by switching to a 7-page format and putting the date and holiday fields on each day.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Katya Able says:

    Wow! That’s an incredible amount of work you’ve inputted. Thank you!

    Have you considered making a ‘subscribable’ calendar for iCal (and the PC equivalent) with the same data you’ve collected? We are an Apple device family and rely only on our electronic calendars. There is a feature where one can ‘subscribe’ to public calendars (such as yours which represents all of the Orthodox Christian dates) and they seemlesly slide right into one’s electronic life. Just a thought for a ‘next step’. Thanks again for all that you put together! Your work will undoubtedly guise many!


    1. Thanks for the encouragement!
      I had thought about creating a calendar to import into Outlook, but I don’t know how to create a subscribable calendar. I also don’t have any Apple devices, so I have no way to test it. I’ll happily let someone else take on that mantle.


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