Assumption 2023: Why is August 15 a holiday?


Assumption 2023: Why is August 15 a holiday?

ASSUMPTION. Tuesday August 15, 2023 is a public holiday in France. But why is it? And since when ? Here's what you need to know about the Assumption, a feast celebrated by Christians.

[Updated July 26, 2023 at 7:11 p.m.] The Assumption is a Christian holiday, therefore a public holiday in France. This day off, which allows some to take advantage of a long weekend or to take a day off from vacation, has a special meaning for Christians. On this day, they celebrate the Assumption, or elevation to heaven, of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. Discover the meaning of this holiday and its origin, but also who decided to make this holiday.

From the first centuries AD, August 15 was already a Christian feast given in honor of the Virgin Mary and accompanied by processions. However, it was King Louis XIII, who was very religious, who brought this festival back into the spotlight in France in the 17th century. Indeed, after twenty-three years of marriage without having had any children, Louis XIII welcomed a son, the future Louis XIV, in 1638. He attributed this birth, seen as a miracle, to Marie, and placed France under the protection of the Virgin. To thank the Virgin for having "answered her prayers", he made August 15 a public holiday and had processions organized in France.

Even though August 15 is a public holiday, you can do several things. Most shops and museums remain open on this day off, but their hours may vary. Tourists and vacationers, many at this time of year in France, should be able to occupy themselves without too much difficulty, by strolling in the Louvre for example. Others will still be able to plan a few races on this holiday. To be sure not to find door closed, consult our list of supermarkets, brands or open stores.

Many events are organized, mostly religious. In Paris, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre hosts an anticipated Mass of the Assumption the evening before D-Day. The following day, on Assumption Day, a "solemn" Mass is traditionally held. Vespers also follow. Other Assumption Masses are scheduled throughout the day. Also in Paris, a procession has been taking place for some years on a Seine boat. The Virgin Mary is taken out there as a silver statue, usually kept at Notre-Dame. Processions followed by festivities are also organized throughout France (Biarritz, Chartres...). As for the sanctuary of Lourdes, it is on August 15 that it sees the most visitors.

In the sense that we are interested in it in this dossier, "Assumption", not to be confused with "Ascension", designates a very specific Christian holiday. The latter celebrates a "abduction", and not just any: that of the Virgin Mary. Thus, the term "assumption", derived from the Latin "assumere", means "to take, to remove". In the case of the "Assumption", it refers to the "rapture into heaven" of Mary. In other words, to the transfer into the heavens of his body as well as his soul. Every August 15, the Assumption celebrates the death and resurrection of the mother of Jesus Christ, but also her entry into paradise and her coronation. A religious dogma based on theological writings dating from antiquity, legends and apocrypha (writings of unestablished authenticity), but not on writings specific to the Gospel.

Have you ever stumbled on "Ascension" and said "Assumption" and vice versa? Or, simply, to confuse the two events? If the two terms are similar and both point to the same action, they designate two different "events" for Christians.

When the Ascension represents the rise of Jesus into heaven, the term Assumption (the word was coined by Christians themselves), refers to the rise of Mary, mother of Jesus, into heaven. For believers, it took place after her earthly life and prevented the degradation of Mary's body in a tomb to give her a new, heavenly life. Celebration date? August 15th. In 1950, the Church officially proclaimed the existence of this reality in the Catholic faith, further anchoring the "dogma" of the Assumption in Christianity. The Assumption gives rise to many Catholic processions. Protestants do not celebrate this event. To remember this distinction, you can use a mnemonic device: in "Assumption", there is an "m", as in Mary.

The date of the Assumption gives rise each year to a public holiday, which therefore falls on Tuesday, August 15, 2023. This public holiday of the Assumption is one of the 11 days legally defined as such by the Labor Code in most of France. 11 days including religious holidays (Easter Monday, Ascension Thursday, Whit Monday, All Saints' Day, Christmas) as well as civil (New Year's Day, Labor Day, Victory Day of May 8, 1945, 14 July and November 11). St. Mary's Day (just short) also falls on January 1. Note that unlike the date of the Ascension, which varies from year to year, but is each time 40 days after Easter Sunday, that of the Assumption does not change. It falls on August 15 every year.

The fixed religious feast of the Assumption has been celebrated on August 15 since the 6th century, with the establishment by the Byzantine Emperor Maurice, in his empire, of a feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on this date. The purpose, it seems, at the time was to commemorate the inauguration of the Sepulcher of Mary, a church erected especially for the Virgin ascended to heaven. Since becoming a liturgical feast in the Catholic Church, the Assumption is the occasion of numerous processions in the parishes of this confession. In France, since the consecration of France to the Blessed Virgin by Louis XIII on February 10, 1638, processions have traditionally been followed by festivities.

The monarch would have first consecrated his person and his Kingdom to the Virgin Mary "in the secrecy of his heart", before imploring her to give him an heir, then expected for 22 years. A pregnancy does not take long to follow for Anne of Austria, after the "apparition" of Mary and the performance of novenas (prayers targeted on a wish and repeated nine days in a row), but also processions organized in the parishes August 15th. As soon as the pregnancy was confirmed, Louis XIII published the Official Edict which this time solemnly consecrated France to Marie*. Louis XIV will be born the following year. Consult the biography of Louis XIV.