How do Amish observe Ascension Day?

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.”

Ascension Day Amish
Raber’s Almanac lists important days in the Amish religious calendar

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?

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    15 Comments

    1. Al in Ky

      Ascension Day is definitely observed in the Paoli and Orleans,
      Ind., communities I often visit. I think it is the least well-known religious holiday amongst non-Amish who visit Amish communities. I’m sure that many non-Amish have gone to Amish
      stores/farms to purchase things on Ascension Day and have found on that day it is “no sale”. It is hard to remember because it changes every year and often falls on a weekday. I’ll never forget
      on Ascension Day in 2011, I went to an Amish farm at Paoli to place
      a large order for produce and found at the driveway into the farm two large sawhorses, with ropes hung in-between stating, “No sales today – religious holiday”. This was interesting, because on Sundays they just have a simple sign by the driveway “No sales today”.

    2. Kevin L.

      We do celebrate it in our church, but in our archdiocese (I am a Catholic) the observation of it is transferred to the Sunday following. In other diocese it is observed on the Thursday. It is left to the perogative of the diocese whether to observe it on Thursday or Sunday

    3. Brittany

      The Amish in Moravia, Iowa close their businesses and plant their gardens

    4. Debbie

      Yes. I am United Methodist and we celebrate on the closest Sunday.

    5. Tom Geist

      Amish Traveling Reminder...

      I am out on a trek to visit a bunch of Amish communities. I learned about the Ascension Holiday while at the Oak Ridge Country Store in Cadiz,KY. (875 Burkley Rd) There was a sign on the door indicating that they would be closed the next day (today)for a holiday. The woman at the counter acted amazed that I was not aware of the holiday.
      This does not bode well for me hitting several other Amish communities I had planned to hit today in Missouri. (Seymour, Fordland and Marshfield, MO)It reminds me that I need to check the Amish holiday calendar next time I plan on such a trip.

    6. Diann Pollock

      Ascension Day

      The Amish here in Ethridge, Tennessee also observe Ascension Day. It is a day of rest and visiting for them. No sales. They always observe it on Thursday as do our Catholic churches in the area. It is different every year because it is 40 days after Easter, but they celebrate the Thursday before the fortieth day.

    7. Tammy Tilley

      Thanks for the Quote!

      Thanks for quoting from my blog I write for the LaGrange County CVB, online at: http://www.VisitShipshewana.org. Glad you noticed, and yes, it’s quiet around our Amish backroads today!

      1. Thanks Tammy, yes I linked to your post which I found at backroads.org. Good info!

    8. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Thank you, Erik, you made me pick up my “Old Farmers Almanac” for the first time in a little while, to see their list of Moveable Religious Feasts, which does note Ascension Day..

      I think having a feast day and observation chart somewhere on Amish America might be useful to travelers so they don’t rudely interrupt an Amish family in the middle of a family focused observation. Maybe this entry could be a genesis of such a thing. I wouldn’t want to walk in on an Amish family having reflection time or quiet time, and would be nice to know when what is going on, being out of the loop religiously and all.

      1. Tom Geist

        While I think it would be nice to have such a list, in my recent travels to several Amish places in Kentucky and Missouri I found that not all of them do the same thing, even within the church district.

        Above I posted about “Amish Traveling Reminder…” because I thought I found out that all Amish celebrate the Ascension. (according to the lady at the store in Cadiz,KY) Knowing that I slept in the next morning, getting out of my motel around 9am. I decided I would head towards the next Amish community and spend the night so I could visit them Friday, the day after the feast of Ascension. Low and behold I find that the conservative Amish in Seymour, MO do NOT do anything special for the day. One store there was closed, but only because of a wedding. Another store was closed because it was a Thursday, a day off for them to do other things. Yet most Amish stores were open.
        I felt bad because I ended up wasting most of my morning going slow, missing out on some time I could have spent chatting with the Amish.

        So, my advice, keep the Amish holidays in the back of your mind as you make plans, but unless you know for 100%, don’t assume all Amish follow the holidays in the same way.

        1. Interesting Al. The Amish at Seymour are related to those in Adams County Indiana.

    9. Marilyn from MI

      We always have a church service on Ascension Day at night.

      1. Brother Jeremy

        Ascension Day

        Catholics from the earliest days have celebrated Our Lord’s Ascension as a holyday
        rather than as a holiday. The Holy Bible refers to the forty days after Easter, and so
        some districts always have it on that Thursday, while others have it on the nearest
        Sunday. Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, is always on a Sunday, and parts of the
        Amish religious calendar are derived from the early Catholic Church.
        Brother Jeremy

    10. Brother Jeremy

      Religious calendar

      We observe Ascension Day, a holyday rather than a holiday, which the Bible
      refers to as forty days after Easter. Some Catholic districts have it
      observed on that very day, while others mark it on the Sunday nearest that
      Thursday. The Easter, Rogation Days, Ascension,& Pentecost on the Amish
      calendar all come from the earliest days of Catholic Christianity.

    11. Ascension Day

      Some Amish communities view Ascension Day as a day to fast. I am not privy to what extent that occurs or which communitie. This was my experience growing up in Big Valley, Pa. Of course things do change slowly over time and that may no longer be the situation. I also visited an Amish person some 30 years ago in Minnesota on Ascension day and he reminded me of the significance of the day but was willing to conduct the interview I needed to have with him.