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Assumption Day

Assumption Day 2018 and 2019

In Germany, Assumption Day is a public holiday in the provinces of Saarland and Bavaria, which have a higher concentration of catholics. In 2018, Assumption Day falls on Wednesday 15 August.

YearDateDayHolidayStates
201815 AugWedAssumption DayBY & SL
201915 AugThuAssumption DayBY & SL
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According to Roman Catholic tradition, Assumption Day is the most important feast to “the Blessed Virgin,” who gave birth to Jesus Christ. It is not exactly the belief that Mary “ascended” to Heaven, but it is believed that her body and soul were “assumed,” meaning taken by God into Heaven, on this day. The main point of the belief seems to be to avoid any thought that the body of Mary saw corruption in the tomb after her death.

Not until the fifth century A.D. does belief in the Assumption first appear in the historical record, and it was not established officially as a Catholic feast day until 451 A.D. at the Council of Chalcedon. The date of 15 August however, was not fixed until about 700 A.D.

Mary is thought to have lived with the Apostle John, into whose care Jesus entrusted her as he died on the cross, and to have travelled with him to reside in Ephesus when John became pastor of the church there. Both Ephesus and Jerusalem lay claim to the death-place of Mary. Her grave has been identified by some in Jerusalem, but Catholic tradition continues to maintain her tomb is, like Christ’s, an empty one.

Famous paintings of Mary being assumed into Heaven, such as the depiction by Correggio and the one by Rubens, have served to visualise this tradition for centuries. Typically, Mary is rising in the middle on her way toward Heaven, Jesus or God the Father awaits her above, and various saints and Christians stand below to represent life on earth. Angels and cherubim also often accompany her as her guides into glory.

In Bavaria and Saarland, there are many special masses, ringing church bells, and religious pilgrimages on Assumption Day. When two churches are close to one another, they often ring their bells in unison. In some areas, there are processions and summer festivals on August 15th as well.

There are two major German Assumption Day traditions. The first says that the first-ripe walnuts and hazelnuts are to be dubbed “Mary’s nuts” and handed out free to children. The second tradition, mostly celebrated in rural areas today, has villagers go out into the fields to gather various herbs and flowers, which are then formed into bouquets and blessed by priests. Some of these bouquets are put on church altars, but others adorn the walls of homes. The most common herbs gathered include: chamomile, thyme, clover, mugwort, yarrow, and wormwood.