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When is Ascension Day?
Ascension Day is a Christian holiday that observes the ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven. It is celebrated on the 40th day of the Easter season, which takes place 39 days after Easter Sunday. Also referred to as the Feast of the Ascension, it is another important holiday to Christians as they pay tribute to their Savior as they await his return.
History of the Holiday
According to the Holy Bible, Jesus was crucified on the day the Christian Church now recognizes as Easter Sunday. It wasn’t until 39 days later, however, the Jesus rose into Heaven. On this 40th day, it is said that Jesus came to his disciples and promised that they would see his ascension from Jerusalem. Scripture says that the Apostles witnessed the event, where Jesus was rose into the sky. Following the ascension was a promise that he would one day return.
This was a remarkable event in the Holy Bible, but a holiday to celebrate the ascension wasn’t established until years later. According to the Share Faith Christian Guide, Ascension Day was celebrated sometime around 68 AD, where people commemorated Jesus’ ascension in the form of a feast. At this time, the event was called the Feast of the Ascension. However, there was no formal holiday established until around the fourth century.
Celebrations and Commemorations
Ascension Day is primarily celebrated within churches where special services are dedicated to the ascension of Jesus Christ on the 40th day of Easter. Some groups still hold related feasts to commemorate the day, too. Church attendance may be varied: while Catholics may be required to go to services, other sects of Christianity are a little more flexible. Ascension Day always falls on a Thursday, so some churches opt to hold services the following Sunday to accommodate work schedules.
Some Christians bypass formal church services altogether and choose to make Ascension Day celebrations a family affair at home. Candles may be lit, prayers may be said and a feast may be enjoyed together. Other Christians may even celebrate the several days leading up to the holiday. No matter how it is commemorated the message remains the same to Christians: Ascension Day marks the day Jesus promised he would return to Earth someday.
In the United States, Ascension Day is not a government holiday, which is the same as Good Friday. Ascension Day often falls on a weekday, but government offices and public schools remain open. While the same is true of Good Friday, many schools and businesses choose to close and incorporate the holiday into spring break, or an extended Easter holiday weekend. A few other countries do designate Ascension Day as a public holiday.
Ascension Day never falls on the same date because Easter Sunday does not occur on the same date. However, Ascension Day does always fall on a Thursday, just as Easter is always held on Sunday. These holidays are based on the lunar and solar calendars, which are not the same length as the modern 365-day annual calendar. For this reason, Easter is slated for either March or April depending on the year. Ascension Day is always 39 days after, but can occur May or early June. In 2014, Ascension Day is on May 29th. It will fall on May 14th in 2015. The last time Ascension Day was in June was in 2011.