Ascension, this year falling on May 5, is a Christian holiday, originally observing the ascent of Christ into heaven on the 40th day after the Resurrection.

The Christian holiday is in Sweden celebrated as a so-called red, free day. Known in official Swedish Lutheran Church language as "Christ's Journey to Heaven Day," (Kristi Himmelfärds Dag) the holiday is better known in irreverent vernacular as "Christ the Aviator Day" (Kristi Flygare Dag). As when holidays occur on Tuesdays, Thursday holidays create what is called a klämdag "pinched in between" day that calls for another day between it and the weekend to be taken off from work — although it counts as one of Swedes' five weeks of paid holiday time. The day before Ascension Day is also de facto considered a half-day holiday.

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Long ago, Ascension Day was also the first day of the fishing season. A big catch on this day signified the coming of a good year. Even earlier, in the 18th century, the days leading up to Ascension were used by the local parish and priest to walk the fields to pray for a good harvest. This Catholic tradition was prohibited in 1772.

In general, the religious significance is today oblivious to most people, and little if any significance in church attendance is obvious. However, prior to the four-day weekend, attendance is always heavy at the state-run liquor stores, and also grocery stores, where holiday-bound travelers stock up to survive the holiday itself and the Sunday during which some of the shops are closed. Nowadays, many liquor stores are open half or three-quarter days on Saturdays, and unlike times past, fairly strong beer can be purchased at any time in groceries, which remain open until late every evening, holiday or not.

May 1 and Sweden’s National Day, June 6 are the only non-religious holidays in the Swedish calendar. Pentecost, following 10 days after Ascension Day used to be celebrated in a similar fashion to Easter in Sweden. The third day of Pentecost (the day after Whitsunday) was a day off until June 6 was made a national holiday in 2005.

Commemorating the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ, on the ancient Jewish festival called the “feast of weeks,” is Pentecost.

Whitsunday is so called because of the white garments worn by those who were baptised during the vigil; Pentecost (“Pfingsten” in German), is Greek for “the fiftieth” (day after Easter).

Whitsunday, as a Christian feast, dates back to the first century, although there is no evidence that it was observed, as there is in the case of Easter.