On August 15, the Feast of the Assumption (or simply, “The Assumption)” is widely celebrated all over Christendom. This holy day marks the occasion of the Virgin Mary’s bodily ascent to heaven at the end of her life. Assumption celebrations are accompanied by festivals, colorful street processions, fireworks, and pageantry. While a “feast” isn’t actually required, there is a longstanding tradition of blessing the summer harvest. There are even special “Assumption” recipes incorporated into family dinners. Sounds heavenly! The devoted light candles, attend masses, and say prayers for peace all over the world.
When is Feast of the Assumption 2024?
The Virgin Mary’s entrance into heaven by God after her death is observed in Christian faith on the Feast of Assumption on August 15.
History of Feast of the Assumption
In the third and early fourth centuries AD, apocryphal (widely believed but not official) writings mused upon the Dormition/Assumption of Mary, none of them attaining the status of dogmatic belief. Then, in the fourth century, the bishop Epiphanius of Salamis wrote about the varying philosophies concerning the nature of the Virgin Mary’s passing on, identifying three factions of belief but remaining unable to establish a broad consensus. He concluded, “No one knows her end.” By the eighth century, an apocryphal text called the “Transitus Mariae” had become so generally accepted that John of Damascus was able to establish its storyline with the church as the official story from that point forward.
In the West, also in the eighth century, Pope Sergius I encouraged celebrations for the Feast of the Assumption, and Pope Leo IV confirmed the Feast as official.
The holiday has not only survived but also has thrived to this day, despite the church never having pointed to any concrete historical or explicit Biblical evidence (the Biblical citations being only metaphorical), nor fully admitting the story’s reliance on apocrypha.
Our advice? Whether you’re Catholic, or from another denomination, or not religious at all, go out to the street fairs and parades. God would certainly smile upon a loving, happy gathering of friends!
Feast of the Assumption timeline
References to the Dormition or Assumption of Mary first appear in two apocryphal texts, the “Liber Requiei Mariae” and the “Six Books Dormition Apocryphon.”
Epiphanius of Salamis writes of his search to find well-founded traditions concerning the fate of the Virgin Mary — he is essentially unable to find any.
Pope Leo IV confirms the Feast of the Assumption as official.
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary becomes a popular subject in art.
Across Christian faiths, there now exists a nearly universal agreement that whether her passing was an Assumption, a Dormition, or of some other nature, a yearly Feast in honor of Mary should be celebrated.
The Virgin Mary is declared the patron saint of France by King Louis XIII and he institutes April 15 as a national day of processions in her honor.
Acadian leaders at the National Convention in New Brunswick are mandated to set the date of National Acadian Day, and they choose August 15 in honor of Saint Mary.
Pope Pius XXII defines the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith.
Traditions of the Day
Every country that celebrates the Feast of Assumption has its charming traditions. In many Eastern countries, ladies with the name ‘Mary,’ or having a name derived from ‘Mary’, welcome everyone to their homes in honor of the Blessed Mary.
Celebrations are marked grandly with colorful festivals, street processions, pageantry, and fireworks displays. Hosting a feast is not a requisite, but there are special recipes for the occasion that are incorporated into family dinners and the tradition of blessing the harvest is upheld.
The day is known as the Feast of Our Lady of Herbs in Poland, with bouquets made of blossoms and herbs that are taken to church. Children sing hymns at churches and grown-ups dance to the melody of the polonaise.
Parades with marching bands, funfairs, games, races, costume contests, dancing, and other family-friendly events take place throughout Spain on this day. In Sicily, in honor of Mother Mary, partial or complete abstinence from fruit is observed during the first two weeks of the month. On the feast day, all types of fruit are blessed at church and indulged in.
In France, the statue of Mary is carried in processions with great splendor through the towns and cities on August 15, with accompanying peals of church bells and hymns sung in her honor. Finally, a popular old custom on the Feast of Assumption is blessing the sources of harvest. Before the Reformation, in all Christian countries, the clergy would bless the farms, orchards, countryside, and gardens. This ritual is still performed today in the Western parts of Austria, as the ‘Blessing of the Alps.’
Feast of the Assumption FAQs
How can the Assumption be true if it wasn’t made dogma until 1950?
It’s important to note that neither the Orthodox churches nor the Catholic church believes in sola scriptura, a Protestant concept from the 16th century that states doctrine must be proven by scripture alone. Thus, it was completely acceptable for Pope Pius XXII to use as his basis the fact that the Assumption was so widely believed and revered among his faithful; he wasn’t inventing something new, but rather addressing a huge existing phenomenon.
How widely, exactly, is the Assumption recognized?
The Feast of the Assumption is not only celebrated but is a public holiday in 43 different countries, from juggernauts like France and Greece to smaller nations like Paraguay and Andorra. We don’t think “worldwide” is too broad a term, in this case.
When is the Feast Of Assumption?
The Feast of Assumption falls on August 15.
HOW TO OBSERVE THE FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION
Attend a mass
For Catholics it’s a “Day of Obligation,” but no matter what your feelings on God and religion, go and sit in the back, or ask a friend if you can go with them and their family. If it feels right, look into what your true feelings are.
Plant a Mary garden
It’s a tradition in Europe, but you don’t have to live there to acknowledge Mary as the first believer in the resurrection of Christ and “the first fruit” of a great future harvest. A small statue of her standing over your common herbs is customary.
The day isn’t called a “Feast” for nothing. Make plans to go out for a nice dinner, cook something at home, volunteer at a soup kitchen, and have what’s on their menu while contemplating Mary’s life, passing, and legacy - the only limit is your imagination.
FIVE BIBLE VERSES ABOUT MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS
Song of Solomon 2:10-11
My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.”
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your saints shout for joy.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
WHY THE FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION IS IMPORTANT
It’s a major part of the Catholic faith
Catholics believe that the decaying of the human body after death is a result of the decedent’s sins during life, therefore since Mary was without sin, it makes canonical sense for her to have ascended bodily.
It’s a large part of history in general
The New Advent Encyclopedia states that the Feast of the Assumption was first celebrated before the year 500 in Palestine, making the holiday over 1.5 millennia old!
A belief in miracles is not a bad thing
John of Damascus wrote that, although Mary had died with the apostles nearby, when her body was later requested by the Roman Emperor and the tomb was opened, the tomb was empty, leading the apostles to believe that Mary had miraculously been taken up to heaven. Quite a nice concept to think about, compared to imagining grave robbers, we think.
Feast of the Assumption dates