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Why isn't Ascension Day a public holiday in Italy?

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Why isn't Ascension Day a public holiday in Italy?
Pope Francis presides over a mass at the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Italy is known for being a particularly religious country, so why isn't Ascension Day a public holiday here?


Thursday 18th May 2023 is Ascension Day, the day many Christians believe commemorates the ascension of Christ to heaven, following 40 days of preaching after his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

This means that it doesn't always fall on May 18th, but changes each year depending on when Easter is

READ ALSO: How to make the most of Italy's public holidays in 2023

According to Christian tradition, Ascension Day celebrates the day Jesus ascended into heaven at Bethany or the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem. The date is marked across all branches of Christianity on the sixth Thursday after Easter.

That doesn't mean it is a public holiday everywhere, however.

It's a holiday in countries including France, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and the Benelux countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Certain parts of Switzerland also have a day off.

But in Italy, a country known for being overwhelmingly Catholic, the date is not a public holiday and not really marked outside Mass.

Why is this?

Generally speaking, traditionally Catholic countries such as Italy don't place such an emphasis on Ascension Day.


Instead, many Roman Catholic countries, such as Poland, Spain, and Hungary, as well as Italy, tend to mark the ascension on the Sunday before Pentecost and view the Assumption of Mary on August 15th (l'Assunzione di Maria in Italian, though the date is also known as Ferragosto) as the more important celebration.

l'Assunzione on August 15th is marked by processions and religious events in towns up and down Italy, while the week around Ferragosto sees more or less the entire country close down for summer holidays during what is usually the hottest part of the year.


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