Pentecost and White Monday 2017: It should be a Bank Holiday today

When is Whit Sunday and Pentecost?

Pentecost or Whit Sunday was on June 4 this year, 50 days after the last Sabbath of Passover.

As the date of Passover (Pesach) is marked on the Hebrew calendar, the day WhitSun fall will always differ each year depending on the position of the moon and the Sun.

Next year Pentecost will fall on May 20.

What is Pentecost?

D9N8J4 Stained-glass windows at the Mary Queen of the Universe Minor Basilica of Orlando, Orange County, Florida
Stained-glass windows at the Mary Queen of the Universe Minor Basilica of Orlando (Picture: Getty)

The name ‘Pentecost’ derives from the Greek word ‘Pentekostos’, which translates as ’50’.

Pentecost falls during the Feast of Weeks or ‘Shavuot’ festival in the Jewish calendar – a thanksgiving celebration to God – because the apostles were celebrating Shavuot when the Holy Spirit descended on them – sounding like a strong wind and looking like tongues of fire.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostles started talking in foreign languages. Passers-by thought they were drunk, but Peter told them they were actually high on the Holy Spirit God had given to them.

Peter began preaching after the first Pentecost, gaining more than 3,000 followers who were subsequently baptised, which is why Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the church.

In Christianity, the celebration marks the beginning of the church as an official movement and the Holy Spirit.

Why is it called Whitsun and Whit Sunday?

The descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). The Wings of the Wurzach Altar, 1437. Found in the collection of the Staatliche Museen, Berlin. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
The descent of the Holy Spirit – known as the Wings of the Wurzach Altar (Picture: Getty Images)

The descent of the Holy Spirit – known as the Wings of the Wurzach Altar (Picture: Getty Images)
While Britons usually refer to the celebration as ‘Pentecost’, the date is traditionally referred to as ‘Whitsun’ by the Christian church.

‘Whitsun’ essentially means ‘White Sunday’ because, it is believed, the date is a day for baptisms when people would wear white.

Others believe the name ‘whit’ is a Anglo Saxon term meaning wit, understanding and wisdom – relating to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

And Whit Monday?

Whit Monday – or Monday of the Holy Spirit – follows Whit Sunday and is marked with a public bank holiday in most countries except the UK. The UK used to have one but it was replaced with a spring bank holiday on the last Monday of May in 1971.


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