Ascension Day is on May 9th, 2024. At the same time it is also Father’s Day. We tell you what significance the day has for Christians and what customs there are in Germany.

Many fathers will look forward to May 9th with joy: it’s Father’s Day. At the same time as Fathers’ Day, many Christians celebrate another high holiday: Ascension Day.

The name of the holiday actually gives away what this day is about. Christians celebrate

the return of Jesus Christ as the Son of God to his Father in heaven. That is why the holiday is also called “Exaltation of Christ”. Ascension Day is always celebrated 39 days after Easter Sunday, i.e. on the 40th day after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The high festival therefore always falls on a Thursday. Believers can find sources for the return of the Son of God in the New Testament in the Gospel of Luke and in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. According to this, after his resurrection on Easter Sunday, Jesus spoke to his disciples for 40 days (Acts 1:3) before he was “lifted up” and a “cloud took him up from before their eyes” (Acts 1:9).

This year, Ascension Day falls on May 9, 2024. Ascension Day is a public holiday in all federal states in Germany. This means that all schools, offices and most shops will remain closed on this day. Ascension Day is also a public holiday in Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Denmark.

For the first three centuries, believers celebrated Ascension Day together with Pentecost. By the way, we explain the significance of Pentecost for Christians in another article.

Since the 4th century, Ascension Day has been an independent Christian holiday. During this time, the custom of holding processions in the days before Ascension Day and asking for a good harvest also developed. That is why the days before the festival were also called “supplication days”. However, these petition processions were abolished in the Catholic Church as part of the liturgical reform in 1969. On Ascension Day, the priest wears a white robe during mass. Easter white is the liturgical color of light.

According to biblical tradition, Jesus ascended to heaven from the highest point of the Mount of Olives. There – east of Jerusalem’s Old City – stands the small, simple Ascension Chapel, which has been the property of the Islamic Foundation Administration (“Wakf”) since the Crusader era. Since Ottoman times, a Catholic mass has only been allowed to be celebrated there once a year, on the Feast of the Ascension Day. The Muslims built the Dervish Mosque, in whose courtyard the chapel stands, next to the site of the ascension of “Prophet Jesus to Allah Almighty” and not above it, out of respect.

In order to show people the Ascension, in some regions of southern Germany and Austria, figures of Christ were and still are pulled up through a hole in the church ceiling. Otherwise, the festival is traditionally celebrated in many places with outdoor services and processions. Well-known processions include the “Gymnicher Ritt” in Erftstadt near Cologne, the carriage pilgrimage in Telgte in Münsterland, the sea wedding in Cervia on the Italian Adriatic or the Holy Blood procession in Bruges, Belgium. On the Friday after Ascension Day, Europe’s largest equestrian procession, the Blood Ride, passes through the Upper Swabian town of Weingarten.

According to theologian Thomas Söding, Father’s Day goes well with Ascension Day. “You can say that Ascension Day is Father’s Day in a very eminent sense because it has to do with the divine sonship of Jesus. And with God as Father,” said the Bochum New Testament scholar in an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA).

It is also fair that fathers and mothers have their day on which they are celebrated or celebrate themselves. “My dream would of course be if the handcart tour on Ascension Day didn’t go past the churches, but also into a church, of course before drinking alcohol,” said the theologian. Then the spiritual part can be easily connected with the secular part.

On Father’s Day, many German men treat themselves to a break from home and go around in groups with their handcarts. But how is Father’s Day celebrated in other countries?

This year, Ascension Day falls on Thursday, May 9th. The day is considered a public holiday in all federal states, which is why almost all shops are open – but there are exceptions. FOCUS Online has summarized for you where you can shop and when.