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Why is Ascension Day a holiday in most of Europe but not Italy?

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Why is Ascension Day a holiday in most of Europe but not Italy?

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


This year, Thursday May 9th 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 9th, but changes each year depending on when Easter is.

According to Christian tradition, Ascension Day marks 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's 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.

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

This is because, generally speaking, traditionally Catholic countries including 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 in the week around Ferragosto more or less the entire country closes down for summer holidays during what is usually the hottest part of the year.

Ascension Day isn't the only important date on the Catholic calendar not marked with a public holiday in Italy. Good Friday may be a holiday elsewhere in Europe, but not in Italy, where it's seen as a day of mourning.


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