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

The Local Spain
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Why isn't Ascension Day a public holiday in Spain?
A Spanish priest celebrates mass at the Colegiata de Santa Maria la Mayor in Ronda. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP.

Spain is still a rather religious country, so why isn't Ascension Day a public holiday here?

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Thursday 9th May 2024 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, rather it changes each year depending on when Easter is. 

According to Christian tradition, Ascension Day celebrates the day Jesus ascended into heaven at Bethany or the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem. It is celebrated across all branches of Christianity on the sixth Thursday after Easter. That doesn't mean it is a public holiday everywhere, however.

In many parts of Europe, it is a public holiday, including the Benelux countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, as well as France, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. Certain parts of Switzerland also have a day off.

READ ALSO: Calendar: When are Spain's public holidays in 2023?

But in Spain, a country known for its religious festivities, it is not a public holiday and not really celebrated outside Mass.

Why is this?

Generally speaking, traditionally Catholic countries such as Spain don't place such an emphasis on Ascension Day. Rather, many Roman Catholic countries, such as Poland, Italy, and Hungary, as well as Spain, tend to celebrate the ascension on the Sunday before Pentecost and view the Assumption of Mary (Asunción de la Virgen in Spanish) on August 15th as the more important celebration.

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Asunción de la Virgen is a very Spanish Catholic tradition, when Roman Catholics commemorate the body and soul of the Virgin Mary, rather than her son Jesus, ascending to heaven.

READ ALSO: Why you should visit Barcelona's quirky egg dancing festival

Asunción de la Virgen is a national holiday in Spain, and some parts of Spain also celebrate The Feast of Corpus Christi on June 11th with ornate carpets made of flowers or even dancing eggs, like in Barcelona. 

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