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Ascension Day

Ascension Day 2018 and 2019

Ascension Day is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter. It is a Christian holiday that commemorates the ascension of Christ into heaven. Like Easter, the date of Ascension Day varies each year.

YearDateDayHoliday
201810 MayThuAscension Day
201930 MayThuAscension Day
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History of Ascension Day

According to the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus appeared to his disciples during the 40 days after his resurrection. On the 40th day, he led the disciples to the Mount of Olives, instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit and ascended into the clouds. Two angels then appeared, telling them that Jesus would return to the Earth in glory just as he ascended from it that day. In the fourth century, John Chrysotam and Gregory of Nyssa convinced Augustine to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. In writings, the two mention that celebrations of the ascension date back to AD 68, but the only record of the celebration is during Augustine’s rule.

Celebrations and Traditions

On Ascension Day, people attend church services to celebrate Jesus’ ascension to heaven. The Easter candle is blown out. There are processions with torches and banners. Vegetables and fruits are blessed in the church as well.

In Bruges, the Procession of the Holy Blood takes place on Ascension Day. Prior to the procession, citizens in carts or on horseback perform stories from the Old Testament, talking about the life of Jesus and the history of Burges. The procession begins with people dress as pilgrims and pharaohs while some dress as animals like camels and donkeys. Many of those in the profession are church officials, members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Blood, who take care of the reliquary. There are also floats, bands and choirs in the procession. A vial of what is said to be the dried blood of Jesus Christ is passed through the crowd in hopes that it will become liquid again.

The Procession of the Holy Blood began in the 13th century when it is said the vial came to the city. It is said that each year on Ascension Day, the dried blood becomes wet again and the procession is designed to celebrate the miracle. The crowd is filled with revellers until the blood passes each section. At that time, the crowd grows solemn and quiet as they revere the vial of what they believe contains the actual blood of Jesus Christ.