Celebrating the Feast of the Ascension on the Camino



Written by Trevor

In the Christian church, the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, celebrates the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. It is also known as Ascension Day. As the Camino is a traditionally Christian pilgrimage, this is widely celebrated on the Camino de Santiago. If you find yourself on the Camino 39 days after Easter you are sure to see some of these celebrations!

Tiraboleiros preparing the Botafumeiro.

Festas da Ascensión in Santiago de Compostela

Festas da Ascensión is one of the two biggest festivals in Santiago de Compostela! It is almost as big as the Feast of Saint James on the 25th of July.

The city comes alive with concerts, food, cultural events, markets, parades, and street entertainment. You will also find open air concerts and many other cultural events. Look for the ‘cabezudos’ or ‘big heads’ in the street parades! The whole week is filled with festivities all over the city. This is a great time to be in Santiago!

cabezudos bigheads during Festas da Ascensión in Santiago de Compostela

Of course, this is also a religious observance, so there are special Mass services and the Botafumerio will be swung. You can get the most up-to-date information on special mass times on the Cathedral’s Facebook page. In 2021, the special mass of Ascension is on May 16th, at midday.

mass santiago cathedral interior masks ppe ascension mass

Oviedo also celebrates its own Ascensión festivities, and smaller towns have special church services and some celebrations.

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When is Ascension?

The date that we celebrate Ascension changes each year because it is linked to the date of Easter. The Bible says that Jesus appeared on Earth for 40 days prior to his Ascension. Thus, Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated 39 days after Easter Sunday.

Because this day is a Thursday, some Christian denominations observe the Ascension on the following Sunday – the Sunday before Pentecost. Countries that observe Ascension on a Sunday include Australia, Canada, Ireland and some other European countries. In the Catholic Church in the United States, the day of observance varies by ecclesiastical province.

The Eastern Orthodox Church calculates the date of Easter differently. Therefore, the Eastern Orthodox commemoration of Ascension will usually be after the western observance. Some of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, however, observe Ascension on the same date as the Western Churches

In 2020, Ascension was on the 21st (a Thursday) or the 24th (a Sunday) of May by Western churches. It was on the 28th of May by Eastern churches.

santiago cathedral during a festival with rides in the foreground

Furtue Dates of Ascension

In 2021, Ascension Thursday falls on the 13th of May and may be celebrated on Sunday the 16th of May.

Ascension Day in 2022 is on Thursday the 26th of May, and may be observed on the 29th of May.

Ascension is on the 18th of May in 2023, or the 21st of May.

2021 and 2022 are especially important years for the Camino, because they are Jacobean Holy Years. This means that there are festivities and activities along the Camino all year long! So, if you aren’t able to make it to Santiago for Ascension you will still have plenty of things to see and do.

To start planning your 2022 Camino to coinside with the Festas da Ascensión – get in touch with us! We can answer all your questions and make booking a breeze. We have a super flexible free date change policy so if your plans change, you are covered.

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Originally published on 12th May 2021

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