a boon for those who bridge the gap!

a boon for those who bridge the gap!
a boon for those who bridge the gap!

ASCENSION. This Thursday, May 9, 2024, the Christian holiday of the Ascension which exceptionally follows the May 8 holiday, offers a 5-day long weekend for those who make the bridge.

[Mis à jour le 6 mai 2024 à 17h15] This year 2024, Ascension Day offers many French people the opportunity to bridge the gap and enjoy a longer weekend than usual… Indeed, a rare occurrence on the calendar, this movable date Christian falls this Thursday, May 9 and follows the May 8 public holiday of the Armistice of 1945, thus allowing you to grant yourself a 5-day weekend if you bridge the gap on Friday! In addition, students will not necessarily have school this Friday May 10 and Saturday May 11, according to the National Education website.

But actually, what is the origin of this Christian holiday? In Christian tradition, this day celebrates the ascent of Jesus towards God, his Father. It marks the end of his earthly life, 40 days after Easter, the moment of his resurrection. The Ascension precedes Pentecost by ten days. In France, Ascension Day has been a public holiday since Napoleon Bonaparte decided so in 1801. The precise date of this public holiday changes each year, since Ascension is celebrated 40 days after Easter Sunday. However, this Christian holiday is always celebrated on a Thursday, allowing many French people to bridge the gap by taking a day off the following day. This day is a public holiday in many other countries with Christian roots, such as Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.

Ascension Thursday is a public holiday in France. The explanation is simple: under the Ancien Régime, Christian festivals punctuated city and rural life. Ascension, like Easter, Christmas or the patronal holidays were off days in a country that was still predominantly rural. The French Revolution attempted – without success – to replace them with new secular celebrations. The Concordat signed in 1801 by Napoleon Bonaparte with Pope Pius VII, reestablished four Christian holidays in the calendar: Christmas, the Ascension of Christ, the Assumption of Mary (August 15) and All Saints’ Day.

We then talk about “obligatory holidays“. Despite the separation of Church and State in 1905, these four dates remain non-working throughout France (Alsace and Moselle also celebrate it, while Saint-Etienne on December 26 and Good Friday is only a public holiday in the three eastern departments of France. Furthermore, this day is a public holiday in many countries such as Germany, Belgium or Switzerland (but not Italy and Spain). or the United Kingdom).

Many French people take advantage of the systematic presence of this public holiday Thursday, between April and June each year, to start their weekend two days earlier and thus extend it: this is the Ascension Bridge. It involves taking Friday off which is supposed to remain worked. Many other public holidays can be accompanied by a bridge when the date (and the employer) allows it. But the “Ascension Bridge” seems to be gradually becoming institutionalized. The majority of French administrative services close on Fridays. A closure presented as “exceptional” in the majority of cases, but which is almost general in nature.

To find out in particular the list of closed prefectures and sub-prefectures, the State has set up an interactive map of services (available here) specifying the closure conditions. In town halls, many municipal services will also be unavailable, as will tax centers and CAF services… For all French schoolchildren, including those attending schools where there is usually class on Saturday morning, it has become a ritual included in the school calendar!

Until now, National Education gave academies the choice to interrupt classes on the Friday and Saturday following the public holiday. In April 2015, the ministry clarified that from spring 2016, all schools in France would be closed for the two days following Ascension Thursday. The 4-day weekend was therefore expected to become widespread from this date. This was a request made for a long time by teachers, parents, but also elected officials and bosses during meetings with the Ministry of Education to construct school calendars. Students from schools, colleges and high schools in zones A, B and C will therefore be on leave at Ascension at the end of classes..

With this bridge as with the others, classes have for several years now tended to become empty, with many parents “exceptionally” taking their children out of school to be able to go away for the weekend. The measure is particularly supported by the tourism sector, which sees the big Ascension weekend as an opportunity to make money. For parents’ representatives as well as for teachers, blowing up the Ascension Bridge on the Friday following is also a way of lightening a very busy school calendar in the last term, certain areas, depending on the dates of the Easter holidays and the dates exams, which can last up to 10 weeks of lessons before the long school holidays. The protection of the bridge for students is therefore good news for many… except for the employees who still work on Fridays and who must find childcare.

For Christians, Ascension Thursday has a very specific meaning. It corresponds to the Ascension of Christ, that is to say the moment when Jesus rises to heaven. This event marks the end of his earthly life, 40 days after Easter, that is to say his resurrection (passage from death to life following the crucifixion). This episode is described at the end of the Gospel according to Luke: Jesus takes his apostles to Bethany, a village in Judea where he liked to retreat to flee the persecutions of Jerusalem. There he blessed them. “And it came to pass, as he blessed them, that he separated himself from them, and was taken up into heaven. But when they worshiped him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were always in the temple praising God.

Another account of the Ascension opens the Acts of the Apostles. Also written by Luke, it specifies: “You will receive, says Jesus, a power, that of the Holy Spirit who will descend on you. You will then be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and up to the ends of the earth.” After giving this speech, Jesus would have risen to heaven before disappearing in a cloud. An angel then asked the apostles not to wait to hear the word of the son of God. For Christians, this episode of Jesus’ departure from earthly life is not considered negatively: on the other hand, it is the beginning of the Church and the “mission” of propagating the Catholic faith by the apostles.

The 40-day period following Easter corresponds, according to the Bible, to the period when the resurrected Jesus has not yet ascended to heaven and remains on Earth. According to the Acts of the Apostles, Christ “for forty days appeared to the apostles and spoke to them of the Kingdom of God” relates Luke. This is a key period, since it thus demonstrates, according to Christian believers, his resurrection. References to a periodicity of 40 days are numerous in the Bible. The motif appears in the duration of Noah’s flood or in Christ’s retreat in the desert, corresponding to Lent. The Ascension itself precedes Pentecost by ten days.

In 2024, Ascension Thursday “falls” on May 9. You should know that May 9 is not the date of Ascension every year. This day is movable in the Gregorian calendar. It moves between April 30 and June 3 depending on the year. But whatever happens, Ascension always comes 40 days after Easter Sunday. This is why Ascension always falls on a Thursday.

The date of the Ascension changes every year but always coincides with a Thursday, since the Christian holiday always “falls” 40 days after Easter. The date of Easter is set according to the Ecclesiastical Comput, that is to say a set of calculations used by Christian Churches to set the day of certain celebrations. Since the Council of Nicaea which was held in the year 325, Easter has taken place on the Sunday following the first full moon following March 21, that is to say between March 22 and April 25. Since Easter always occurs on a Sunday, the fortieth day after Easter is always a Thursday. The celebration of the Ascension therefore always takes place on a Thursday located on April 30 and June 3.

Here is the calendar of Ascension dates in the following years:

Year Ascension Date
2024 Thursday May 9
2025 Thursday May 29
2026 Thursday May 14
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