Today is Ascension Day, commemorating Jesus’ physical ascension into heaven. The day, falling on the 40th day following Easter Sunday, is observed by Amish in some places and not in others.
The Amish in Lancaster County are among those that do, as are Amish in Holmes County, Ohio and northern Indiana. In contrast, in Adams County, Indiana, the day is “little noted by the church, with people going about their business as usual.”
In communities that observe Ascension Day, businesses are closed and Amish employees may have the day off from work (the Amish holiday schedule differs with mixed workplaces often offering different holidays for Amish and English employees).
An Indiana Amishman describes how Ascension Day is spent in his community: “Most businesses close for the day…A few businesses might stay open, but I don’t know of many that do. Mainly it’s a day of rest for us. We think about the meaning of the day. We spend time with the family. Some districts might have church.”
John Hostetler writes that “Ascension Day is observed as a day of rest or visiting, but on this day young people, or whole families, go out into the woods for picnics and the boys may go fishing” (Amish Society p. 224).
In The Riddle of Amish Culture Donald Kraybill quotes a Lancaster Amishman: “‘The day is for visiting and starts early for young and old alike. Uncles, cousins, and families congregate. Youth groups plan outings–softball and volleyball. Charter buses take youth and married folks to other communities 150 miles away to visit, relax, and ponder the philosophies of Amish life…’” (Riddle p. 150).
Beyond the Amish, Ascension Day is a religious holiday in numerous Christian churches. Does your church observe Ascension Day?