Celebrating Cultures During the Feast of the Assumption
The Feast of the Assumption, which celebrates the Virgin Mary ascending into heaven upon her death, fell on Aug. 15 this year. As one of the most important holidays in the Catholic tradition, parishes should consider celebrations as a way to connect to their community and their personal ethnic heritage, as well as a celebration of their faith.
This holiday honors a Christian oral tradition dating back to the apostles. The apostles found Mary’s tomb empty and believed it signified the assumption of Mary into heaven. Christian councils solidified this tradition, and Pope Pius XII ultimately proclaimed that the event was a truth that had been revealed by God in the Apostolic Constitution of 1950.
Celebrations for the Feast of the Assumption occur around the world. Several countries consider it a public holiday. Usually a procession is involve. During an annual event in Sicily, a statue of the Virgin Mary is carried through town to a ceremonial arch of flowers, where a group of people holding a statue of Christ awaits her arrival. Both statues are inclined toward each other three times.
Community events are also common and vary throughout the world. Some host church picnics and music events, while others focus more intently around religious-centered ceremonies, such as special masses or community prayer groups. The largest of the events for the Feast of the Assumption typically occur in Italy and South America.
In the United States, the Feast of the Assumption is considered a holy day of obligation and celebrations often reflect a community’s heritage. For example, Holy Rosary Church in Cleveland, Ohio, has hosted a joint religious and community celebration for the past 118 years. The celebration runs from Aug. 12-15 and includes a solemn mass and procession through the neighborhood. The church also hosts a carnival in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood, complete with food stands, live music and even fireworks.
Holy Rosary Church describes the feast “as a celebration of the Gospel of life, faith and family”. It is a time for families to gather and share hospitality, and teach younger generations about this important virtue. It is also a time to celebrate the community’s ethnic heritage and to tell the stories of local families. Father Joe Previte, the presiding priest, reminds his parishioners that, “Taking pride in our own backyard calls us to respect the ethnic diversity of our nation and city. It should be a time also of teaching respect and appreciation for other cultures, races and religious beliefs.”
Overall, the Feast of the Assumption brings Catholics together in celebration of a beloved religious holiday, while encouraging connections among diverse congregations. Learn more about the importance of the feast at www.holy-rosary.org/feast-of-the-assumption.