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What is Ascension Day?

What is Ascension Day?

On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified on the cross and he rose again from the dead on Easter Sunday. Ascension Day is observed by followers of the Christian Faith on the 40th day after Easter Sunday. In the forty days between Easter Sunday and Ascension Day Jesus appeared many times to his disciples to instruct them on how to perform his teachings. According to the New Testament of the Bible, Ascension Day marks the last appearance of Jesus to his disciples before his ascension into heaven where he was enthroned and exalted at the right hand of God.

Depending upon the phases of the moon in a particular year, Ascension Day is usually celebrated on a Thursday. However, some churches may choose to celebrate it on the following Sunday. Many Eastern Orthodox churches calculate the date of Pascha (Easter) according to the Julian calendar, rather than the Gregorian calendar used by many western churches, so their Ascension Day usually occurs after the western observance.

Ascension Day is one of the most important dates in the Christian Calendar. In Roman Catholicism the Ascension of the Lord is a Holy Day of Obligation. Canon Law (the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion of Churches) states:

“On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. Moreover they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body.”

Some Customs associated with Ascension Day
In some countries (e.g. Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Indonesia), it is a public holiday. Germany also holds its Father’s Day on the same date.

Ascension Day is associated across Britain with various water festivals ranging from Well Dressing in Derbyshire to the Planting of the 'Penny Hedge' (or 'Horngarth') in the harbour at Whitby, Yorkshire and the ceremony of Beating the Bounds.

The Beating of the Bounds is a custom which has existed in Britain for well over 2000 years but is now only carried out in a few places. People in the local area walk around their farm, manor, church or civil boundaries and as they pass those things that mark the extent of their boundary they pause, pray and beat landmarks with sticks. In some places it used to be quite normal to bump a child on the boundary marker so that the locations would be ‘sorely remembered’.


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