Understanding and Celebrating the Feast of the Assumption

A statue of Mary is venerated during Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

What the heck is the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven, you ask?

The Assumption (August 15) refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary being assumed — body and soul — into heaven at the end of her earthly life. “Assumption” is different than “ascension” because one is passive (i.e. one is assumed) and the other is active (i.e. one ascends). It is by the power of God Mary was assumed.

As evidenced by the writings of many early Church fathers, Christians have believed for more than a millennium that the Blessed Virgin was assumed into heaven. In 1950, Pope Pius XII issued Munificentissimus Deus, which officially defined the Dogma of the Assumption. This means that the Church officially recognizes this belief as a true and necessary part of our Catholic beliefs about Mary. Like all beliefs about Mary, they illuminate our most treasured beliefs about her Son. The Assumption illustrates to us the truth about Christ’s promise of eternal life and the resurrection of the faithful.

WATCH: Mary in 2 Minutes

Let me tell you, nothing gets this convert stoked like a Marian feast day … and the Assumption is one of my favorites! (Insert my happy dance here.) There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate and honor Our Lady for the Feast of the Assumption. Here are a few ideas to make this day special:

Go to (or watch) Mass

The Assumption is a Holy Day of Obligation, which means Catholics are obligated to attend Mass this day. Your local parish probably offers a vigil Mass (which means a Mass held the evening before the feast, because, in keeping with the Jewish roots of Christianity, a holy day begins at sundown) and a few Masses during the day on the Assumption. Make it a priority to get to Mass. We gather to show our love and affection for Our Blessed Mother and by doing so we bring glory to her Son.

Witness a procession

The number of cities (large and small) that host processions or parades for the Feast of the Assumption is staggering. Our Lady is loved and celebrated in every corner of every continent on the planet! Processions range from small and solemn to large and boisterous. This is what the procession looks like in Paris, New York, and Cantillana, Spain. There are so many more! Search online to find out if there’s a procession in your neck of the woods. If not, consider having a procession of your own! All you need is a picture, icon, or statue of the Blessed Virgin, a few friends, and a procession route (i.e., around the block, across campus, around your yard). If you happen to be in our end of Northeast Ohio this Friday, you might catch a glimpse of four little people parading about our yard with thrift store statues of Our Lady shouting “Salve Regina!”

WATCH: You Don’t Know Jack About the Assumption

Plant a Mary garden

In Europe and throughout the world, it was (and is still) traditional to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption by bringing the summer harvest to be blessed. The first fruits — herbs, tomatoes, summer squash, etc. — are often associated with the Feast of the Assumption both because of the time of year and because Mary was the first believer in Jesus to experience the promised resurrection. She is the first fruit of a great coming harvest. This year, celebrate her Assumption Day by planting a Mary garden of your own. If you live in an apartment or dorm, consider a potted Mary garden in your window with a small statue or image of Our Lady and container full of potted herbs and flowers. Check out this great link with ideas for your very own Mary garden.


Oh, how we love to have something special to eat for a feast day! Your plans can be as simple as a picnic or cookout or as fancy as a formal sit down dinner or a proper tea. Try using fresh herbs and summer produce from your local farmers market. Check out this recipe for Assumption Salad. Or why not put those fresh herbs and veggies on a pizza! These are great recipes for an afternoon tea. This year we’ll be trying this fun and colorful dessert recipe that looks like clouds in the sky. Add a “Hail Mary” or “Hail, Holy Queen” to your meal blessing. Have fun! Be joyful! This is a day of celebration!

Originally published August 2013.