Ascension Quick Facts - AU

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2023 Date18 May 2023
2024 Date9 May 2024

The Observance of Ascension commemorates the ascent of Jesus Christ into heaven. This event is celebrated by Christian denominations worldwide to reaffirm the belief that Jesus returned to his Father in heaven to prepare a place for his followers. Believers can reflect upon Christ's time on Earth, his teachings, and the fulfilment of biblical prophecies.

The origins of the Ascension observance date back to the early Christian Church. Scriptural references in the New Testament, primarily in the Gospels of Luke and Acts of the Apostles, recount Jesus' ascension witnessed by his disciples 40 days after his resurrection. The event has grown to be an important aspect of the liturgical calendar, with the earliest festivities occurring in the 4th century. Over time, various customs such as processions, uplifting hymns, and the releasing of balloons or birds have emerged to honour Ascension.

In Australia, as in most parts of the world, the Ascension occurs 40 days after Easter Sunday. Depending on the denomination, it may be observed on the actual day – known as Ascension Day or Holy Thursday – or the following Sunday, known as Ascension Sunday. This event illuminates the divine nature of Christ and serves as a reminder of his promise to return, inspiring hope and faith among believers.

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Ascension facts

  • The Apostle's Creed, one of the statements of faith in the Christian Church, mentions Jesus' ascension:
    I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
    And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.
    The third day he rose from the dead.
    He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
  • Ascension is the 40th day after Easter, celebrated on the sixth Sunday of the Easter season in Protestant churches and on the 40th day after Easter in Roman Catholic churches. It commemorates the day that Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:1-11) after spending 40 days appearing to his disciples after his resurrection.
  • In Tasmania, it is customary to celebrate Ascension Day with a horse race called the 'Ascot Race'.
  • Ascension Day is not a public holiday in all territories of Australia; however, it is a public holiday in Victoria, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory.

Top things to do in Australia for Ascension

  • Go bird watching. A custom in Sweden, is to get up early in the morning of Ascension and venture out into the woods to listen for the call of a cuckoo. It is considered good luck to hear one on this holiday.
  • Go to church and learn about why Jesus' ascension is important to the Christian faith. Jesus is considered to be both human and divine, and the ascension is an illustration of Christ's divine nature.

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