Meanings and dates of Christian holy days
About Ascension Day:
Christians observe the biblical story of Jesus' ascension from the earth into
the clouds from either Jerusalem, Bethany, or the Mount of Olives; biblical
It is normally observed on a Thursday, exactly forty days after Easter Sunday.
Depending upon the phases of the moon in a particular year, it is celebrated in
the West between sometime between April 30 and June 03. However, some churches
-- particularly in the United States -- celebrate Ascension Day on the following
Ascension day marks the end of the Easter season. It occurs ten days before
Pentecost, which many regard as the date when the Christian church was founded.
Saint Augustine wrote of Ascension Day that it:
"is that festival which confirms the grace of
all the festivals together, without which the profitableness of every
festival would have perished."
Status of Ascension Day:
The three Rogation days (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday)
that precede Ascension Day were once days of fasting. The name was derived from
the Latin word "rogare" which means "to ask." This was because the Gospel
reading on the preceding Sunday -- called Rogation Sunday -- was from John
16:24. It included the phrase "Ask and ye shall receive."
On these days, farmers would have the local priest bless
the crops. The Rogation days were discontinued by the Second Vatican Council in
1970. Rogation Sunday is now called simply the Fifth Sunday of Easter.
"In Roman Catholicism the
Ascension of the Lord is a Holy Day of Obligation. In the Eastern Orthodox
Church the Ascension is one of twelve Great Feasts." 1
However, among many Protestant churches -- particularly those who are strongly
anti-Catholic, the day is being neglected.
Superstitions associated with Ascension day:
- According to Welsh superstition, it is unlucky to do any work on Ascension Day.
- In Devon, it was an ancient belief that the clouds always formed into the familiar
Christian image of a lamb.
- If the weather is sunny, the summer will be long and hot; but if it rains, crops will do badly and livestock,
especially cattle, will suffer from disease.
- Rain collected on Ascension Day is said to be good for inflamed or diseased eyes.
- Those suffering from goiter should bite into the bark of a peach tree at midnight on Ascension Day, so
that the disease passes to the tree and the sufferer is cured.
- Gifts to the blind or lame made on this day are sure to be rewarded with
great wealth within the following twelve months.
- If you eat lamb on Ascension Day, your eye will develop a sty and your
retinas will detach. 1
British customs associated with Ascension Day:
The England in Particular web site describes
three English traditions associated with Ascension day:
- Sunday before Ascension Day: The Byzant Ceremony was held at Tout
Hill in Shaftesbury. In ancient times, water in that area came from deep
wells. However, much better quality spring water was available at
Enmore Green in the neighboring parish of Motcombe. Water carriers regularly carried water up the hill to supply Shaftesbury. On the Sunday before Ascension Day, to ensure a
reliable supply, the Mayor of Shaftesbury would led a procession down
the hill to give gifts to the Lord of the Manor of Gillingham. They
consisted of high quality products from the area: ale, white wheaten bread,
a calf's head and gloves. A Byzant, described as being "like a May
garland with gold and peacocks feathers" was taken to the Lord of the
Manor and later returned up the hill. A Lord and Lady for the day were
chosen -- often the couple who were most recently married. In 1662, the date
was changed to the Monday before Ascension Day. The ceremony was celebrated
- Three days before Ascension Day: Rogationtide
(a.k.a. Beating the Bounds) involved a blessing of the crops and checking of
the parish boundaries. Boundary markers such as trees and boulders would be
memorized. Children would be submurged into boundary rivers or streams and
then given Rammalation biscuits and Ganging Beer.
- Ascension Day: Any rain on this day was regarded
as falling "straight from a Heaven opened for Christ's entry"
and was believed to have curative powers.
Water taken from wells on this day was also considered magical. It was often
mixed with sugar and licorice for children to drink. 2
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Ascension," Wikipedia, at:
- "River Customs," England in Particular,
- "Rogation days," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogation_days
Copyright © 2007 & 2008 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2008-SEP-13
Author: B.A. Robinson