Pentecost is one of the most significant dates in the calendar for Christians across the world, and it known as Whitsun in the UK. This year, Pentecost falls on the 4th June and celebrates the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples after the death of Jesus Christ.
In the Bible, we read how after gathering to celebrate Shavuot (the Jewish harvest festival), the apostles started to talk in foreign tongues with onlookers simply assuming they were drunk. However, St Peter tells us that the truth was that the Holy Spirit inspired the disciples to preach the first Christian sermon – leading to the conversion and baptism of 3,000 people. It is this first Pentecost that signifies the Christian Church becoming a meaningful, distinct and official movement.
Why is it called Pentecost?
Pentecost comes from the Greek word ‘Pentekostos’, which means fifty. This is because the celebrations of Pentecost fall on the seventh Sunday after Easter, and 50 days since the last Sabbath of Passover. This means that Pentecost falls on a different date each year, but you can easily find the date online.
Why Pentecost is called Whitsun in the UK
Pentecost has always been celebrated in the UK, although many churches will commonly refer to it as Whitsun or Whit Sunday. This is due to Whitsun being a common day for baptisms, where many people wear white.
It is also thought that the Anglo-Saxon word ‘wit’, which means ‘to understand’, has influenced the name Whitsun, as the day is a celebration of the Holy Spirit filling the apostles with His wisdom.
How is Pentecost celebrated?
From 1871 to 1978, the UK enjoyed a bank holiday on Whit Monday, before being replaced with the Late Spring bank holiday at the end of May. Whitsun remains a popular day to get baptised and some churches host Whit Walks. Pentecost Monday is a public holiday throughout many countries in Europe, including Germany, France and Belgium.
To find out how ITS Pilgrimages can help you to organise a pilgrimage in England, Europe or further afield for next year’s Pentecost celebrations, call us on 0161 839 1111 or contact us online today.