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15 August: A Day of Rest, Reflection, and Celebration Across Europe

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The holiday of August 15th is widely celebrated in countries, with its own unique traditions and names. This special day holds significance for both cultural reasons as it commemorates the Assumption of Mary. According to beliefs, this dogma asserts that Mary, who was the mother of Jesus ascended to heaven in both body and soul after her life came to an end. The celebration of this holiday often involves activities such as family gatherings, parades, markets, sports events and communal meals.

Let’s take a look at how five different European countries celebrate August 15th:

Italy

In Italy, Ferragosto takes the stage as one of the important holidays observed throughout the entire country. The name Ferragosto derives from “Feriae Augusti,” a phrase meaning “the holidays of Augustus.” It originated during the reign of Emperor Augustus in 18 BC as a time for rest and celebration. Today Ferragosto serves as an opportunity for Italians to pause from their routines and relish the summer weather. Many businesses and shops close their doors on this day while people head to beaches for relaxation or engage in picnics, festivals and concerts. It is also customary for employees to wish their employers a “buon ferragosto” (happy Ferragosto), with hopes of receiving a bonus.

In parts of Italy Ferragosto is an occasion marked by customary festivities. For instance in Sardinia, there exists a festival known as La Festa di Sant’Efisio that is celebrated on the first of May and the fifteenth of August. This festival serves as a pilgrimage to honour Saint Efisio, who is regarded as the patron saint of Sardinia. The pilgrimage commences, in Cagliari. This concludes in Nora, where Saint Efisio was martyred. During this procession, participants don attire while accompanied by horses and carts creating a lively atmosphere that draws thousands of visitors.

France

In France, Assumption Day holds significance as a holiday observed on the fifteenth of August. It carries importance as it commemorates the Assumption of Mary—a belief asserting that Mary, Jesus’ mother ascended to heaven with her body and soul at the end of her earthly life. On this day government offices, businesses and shops typically remain closed. Catholics attend church services while many French families gather for meals and organize afternoon outings.

Certain regions, in France celebrate Assumption Day through events and customs. For instance in Lourdes—a pilgrimage site—a grand procession takes place on the fifteenth of August.

The procession involves pilgrims carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary through the streets. They eventually reach the Grotto of Massabielle, where Saint Bernadette claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in 1858. In another pilgrimage site called Le Puy en Velay there is a tradition of lighting bonfires, on the hills surrounding the town every 14th of August. This tradition, known as Les Feux de la Saint Jean marks the end of summer and the start of the harvest season.

Germany

In Germany, Mariä Himmelfahrt is a holiday celebrated on August 15th. It holds significance in the faith as it commemorates the Assumption of Mary. On this day special church services are. People often participate in processions and pilgrimages. Some regions also have a custom of blessing herbs and flowers.

Bavaria celebrates Mariä Himmelfahrt with events and customs. For instance, in Bad Tölz there is a procession held on August 15th featuring individuals dressed in attire who lead a statue of the Virgin Mary. The procession concludes at the Kalvarienberg, a hill that provides a view of the town. On top of the hill, there stands a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary attracting pilgrims. In Murnau town, it is customary to adorn houses with flowers and greenery, on Mariä Himmelfahrt, known as “Kräuterbuschen.” This tradition serves as a way to pay homage to the Virgin Mary and celebrate the harvest season.

Spain

In Spain, La Asunción de la Virgen is observed as a holiday on August 15th. This significant day holds importance as it commemorates the Assumption of Mary. Many individuals partake in church services and processions during this occasion.

Certain regions in Spain mark La Asunción de la Virgen with events and customs. For instance in Elche town situated in Alicante province, a festival named La Festa d’Elx takes place on August 14th and 15th. This festival serves as both a celebration of the Assumption of Mary and an homage, to the city’s heritage. The highlight of the festival is a drama called Misteri d’Elx that narrates the story of Mary’s Assumption.

The story unfolds in the Basilica of Santa María, a Gothic church, with a history dating back centuries. In the town of Ponteareas situated in the province of Pontevedra there is a tradition of illuminating bonfires, on the evening of August 14th. This tradition, known as “Noite da Queima ” is a way to celebrate the conclusion of summer and the start of the harvest season.

Portugal

In Portugal, August 15th is observed as Dia da Assunção de Nossa Senhora, a holiday with significance that commemorates Mary’s Assumption. Many individuals participate in church services and processions on this day.

Certain areas in Portugal celebrate Dia da Assunção de Nossa Senhora with events and customs. For instance in Viana do Castelo, a town situated in Portugal there is a festival called Romaria da Senhora d’Agonia held during the weekend nearest to August 15th. This festival serves as both homage, to the Virgin Mary and a celebration of the city’s heritage. The festivities include a procession led by fishermen carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary through the streets.

The procession concludes at the Basilica of Santa Luzia a church that offers a view of the city. In São Bartolomeu de Messines, a town situated in the Algarve region there exists a tradition known as “Tapetes de Flores” on Dia da Assunção de Nossa Senhora. During this tradition, the streets are adorned with flowers and greenery to honour the Virgin Mary and celebrate the harvest season.

To summarize 15th August holds significance in European countries each celebrating it differently based on their unique culture and traditions. While it is rooted in observance,

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