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Ascension Day

Ascension Day 2017 and 2018

Ascension Day, which commemorates the Ascension of Christ to Heavenly glory 40 days after his Resurrection, is a public holiday in Finland.

201725 MayThuAscension Day
201810 MayThuAscension Day

It is somewhat unusual that Finland keeps this day on their holiday calendar since most Finns are Lutheran, seeing that Ascension Day is mostly celebrated in the Christian world only by Roman Catholics and Anglicans. However, Finland is a major exception.

There aren’t really any public events for Ascension in Finland, and it is not a “major holiday,” but you can attend special services in some Evangelical Lutheran and other churches.

Counting inclusively, Ascension always comes on the 40th day after Easter. Counting the usual way, it comes only 39 days later. Its date varies with the date of Easter, but it lands somewhere from early May to early June and always on a Thursday. Pentecost, which comes 50 days after Easter and 10 days after Ascension, is also a public holiday in Finland. Pentecost is the last holiday of the “Eastertide” season on the church calendar.

Ascension Day has been celebrated at least since A.D. 385, but some claim its origins as a holiday as far back as A.D. 68. In Finland, Ascension Day is called “Helatorstai.”

In some churches, the Easter candle is put out on Ascension Day, and some may even hold processions. Otherwise, you can expect a simple sermon on the accounts of the Ascension in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts. The texts are: Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:19-20, Luke 24:50-53, and Acts 1:6-11. The accounts speak of Jesus’ appearances to His disciples and of His giving of the Great Commission as He ascended into clouds of glory. Since Jesus said He will return in the same way that He left, Ascension Day is also a time for messages on the Second Coming of Christ.

In Finland, many shops and government buildings will be closed on Ascension Thursday, and public transport will work on its “Sunday schedule.” However, shops at Central Railway and Kamppi bus station, both in Helsinki, will be open.

Those in Finland during Ascension Day might want to consider any of the following activities:

  • Attend Ascension Day services in a Finnish church. Also explore Finland’s many unique and antique church buildings in towns like Tampere, Turku, and Porvoo. Tampere is set between two lakes, with scenic rapids connecting them. Turku has many castles and Medieval-era structures. Porvoo is known for cathedrals and lighthouses.
  • Engage in a Swedish Ascension Day tradition, which is “allowed” since many of Swedish descent and language live in Finland. The tradition is to go out early in the morning on Ascension Day and watch the sun rise and listen to the birds. If you hear a cuckoo, it is considered “good luck” if the sound comes from the east or the west.
  • Explore the natural beauty of Finland in its many national parks. At Repovesi National Park, you can hike through birch and pine woods and amid numerous crystal-clear lakes and ponds. At Nuuksio National Park, you will find a population of flying squirrels. And atHelvetinjarvi National Park, you can explore deep canyons and relax on sandy beaches.

Spending Ascension Day in Finland will introduce you to the land and culture of Finland and create memories that will last a lifetime.