Assumption Day, or Assomption in France, is the day in Roman Catholic tradition when Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, was taken bodily up into heaven.
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It is celebrated on 15 August each year and is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics in France. It is also a public holiday with banks and most businesses closed. This is the time of summer holidays so people are often away from home for this public holiday.
Many Catholics attend church on Assumption Day, and special celebrations are held in the village of Lourdes near the Spanish border. Legend says that in 1858 a girl named Bernadette saw a vision of a lady in a cave near Lourdes who many have speculated could have been Mary. Millions of pilgrims travel to Lourdes for Assumption Day each year and many claim to have been healed by drinking the spring water from the cave where Mary was believed to have been seen.
Across France, some villages and towns run their own festivals that may include communal meals, sports, markets and even parades. There are no particular foods eaten on Assumption Day, except that it is during summer so the usual summer favourites are almost always on the menus – salads, poultry, terrines, cheeses, fruits and fresh cream.
Assumption Day is a day of religious significance that also provides the opportunity for families and groups of friends to enjoy a day together, away from the temptations of shopping and the commitments of work.