In the United States the day after Easter, the egg-shaped candy and Easter baskets immediately get marked down by 50% to make room for the Mother’s Day wares. In Germany, Mother’s Day is also celebrated after Easter, but 39 days after Easter is another Easter-related holiday called Ascension Day. The holiday always falls on a Thursday, since it is always celebrated 39 days after Easter Sunday. It is known as the 40th day of Easter.
The holiday has been celebrated in Germany as far back as the 4th century but was not made a public holiday by the government until 1936. Although it is recognized as a public holiday, Ascension Day is mostly celebrated by Catholics and Anglican Christians in Germany. This holiday celebrates the Ascension of Jesus to Heaven according to tradition, and Ascension Day celebrations usually start with church services.
Before Mass and the services begin, the Easter Candle’s (Paschal) fire is extinguished. In more rural areas of Germany, a procession dotted with torches and banners precedes the church service. During the processions, participants carry fruits and vegetables to the church to be blessed. In some parts of Germany, Men’s Day/Father’s Day is celebrated on the same day as Ascension Day due to the precedent set in the 18th century of fathers receiving gifts after the processions to the church. The men gather together and do an outdoor activity such as taking a walk or riding on a horse-drawn cart. They then eat a meal together.
Ascension Day can fall anywhere from April 30th to June 3rd. This is due to it being based on when Easter falls. Easter’s date is based on when the Jewish Passover takes place. The Jewish Passover is based on the Jewish calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon. So, every year has a different date for the Passover, causing Easter to have a different date, which in turn affects Ascension Day’s date. This year, Ascension Day will be observed on May 26th. So, grab your fruits and vegetables, torch and banner, and present for Dad and head to the church service to celebrate this German holiday!