Ascension Day 2020: meaning, when Holy Thursday falls this year, and how Christians mark the observance in the UK

Ascension Day, also known as, Holy Thursday, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord or The Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, commemorates the moment Jesus ascended into heaven

Ascension Day, also known as, Holy Thursday, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord or The Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, commemorates the moment Jesus ascended into heaven (Photo: Shutterstock)

Today (21 May) marks Ascension Day in 2020. Here’s everything you need to know about the meaning behind the observance and how it’s marked.

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What is Ascension Day?

Christian celebration, Ascension Day, commemorates the moment Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after Easter to sit at his Father’s right hand.

Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem watched his departure from Earth.

Acts: 1:1-11 of the Bible? show Jesus’ farewell to the apostles. The passage states: “Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

“‘He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

“‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”

What happened to Jesus on Ascension Day?

Jesus led his disciples up to the Mount of Olive in Jerusalem. He then said that the time had come for him to be returned to God.

The King James Bible states after Jesus ascended, two angels descended from above and said to his followers: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?

“This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

When does Ascension Day take place?

The celebration takes place 40 days after Easter Sunday, on the sixth Thursday after Easter. The day is also called Holy Thursday.

The date changes each year because the dates of Easter change every year.

Ascension Day can take place as early as 30 April 30 and as late as 3 June in western Christianity.

This year, Ascension Day takes place on Thursday 21 May.

However, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Easter at a different time of year as it observes the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar.

By this calendar, Ascension Day can fall anywhere between 13 May and 16 June.

Is Ascension Day a public holiday?

In the UK, Canada, the USA and Australia, Ascension Day is not a public holiday.

However, Ascension Day is a public holiday in France, Germany, Austria, Indonesia, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Vanuatu.

In Portugal, people usually honour the feast by making wishes for peace and prosperity and making symbolic offerings to God made out of olive and wheat.