For my congregation Ascension Day has particular significance due to the fact that we take our name (Bethany) from the village near which Jesus ascended:
"Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven."--Luke 24:50-51
It is perhaps for this reason that we are motivated to make our Ascension observance extra festive, but considering the significance of this event for the Christian Church it is disappointing that more Christian congregations don't give the day special attention. Many let it pass with only glancing recognition, while others don't consider it at all. Even my local Roman Catholic diocese transfers the celebration to Sunday. But I really like what we do at our congregation, turning Ascension Day into a grand festival with particular attention paid to helping the children of our parish grasp the overflowing joy and awe rightly felt by Christians on this day. Following is a brief description of our tradition:
The celebration began right after school with activities for the children. They decorated an Ascension Day banner, created handmade instruments, and learned some Ascension music to sing for the service later in the evening. There was also some outside play time (luckily the weather cooperated). While the children were occupied, parents enjoyed appetizers and conversation in the gym. At 5:15 everyone lined up for a parade around the church grounds. Leading the way was our processional cross, followed by the pastors carrying the Ascension banner. As they marched, the children rattled their noisemakers and blew on their horns. Periodically the parade halted as Pastor proclaimed "We see Him now ascending" to which all responded "Alleluia!" After circling the grounds, everyone gathered in the sanctuary for Divine Service. The celebration wrapped up with a congregational dinner. Here are a few photos of the parade:
The procession begins.
Our adult choir.
Cantor with the children's choir:
Parents & others welcome the marchers as they wind up the parade.
"Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."--Matthew 28:20