When is Pentecost (07.05.2018)
Observed in Countries with Christian populations
Observed on Fiftieth day after Easter
Observed by Christians
Pentecost is the Christian holiday that observes the descent of the Holy Spirit (of the Christian Trinity-the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) upon Jesus’ Apostles and the early Christians about 50 days (seven weeks) after Easter and 10 days following Ascension Thursday (the day Christians believe Jesus rose into heaven). Pentecost is derived from the Greek word pentekoste, which means “fiftieth,” and actually referred to the Jewish festival of Shavuot, observed on the 50th day after Passover (Pesach). This Hebrew festival celebrated the first fruits of the harvest reaped in spring; but the festival assumed a new significance after the incident involving the Holy Spirit.
Some Christians regard this event as the beginning of the Christian Church and the starting point in the spread of Christianity. Christian Pentecostal churches are so named because they emphasize the Holy Spirit within each individual.
In England this festival is known as Whitsun because of the traditional white robes worn by those who have been baptized the previous Easter. The week starting on Whitsunday (particularly the first three days) is referred to as Whitsuntide or Whit Week. In Old English it was called Hwita Sunnandæg.
Origins and History
Pentecost is a joyful festival. Among the symbols of the festival are wind and flames. These refer to the fact that the Spirit’s arrival in a room in which the Apostles were gathered was marked by strong gusts of wind and quivering tongues of fire. Those present at the spot unconsciously began speaking in different languages (evidently stirred by the Holy Spirit). Onlookers felt as if they were intoxicated, but Peter (Jesus’ first Apostle) explained to them that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Imbued with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles took it upon themselves to spread Jesus’ teachings far and wide.
The Feast of Pentecost has also been represented for almost two millennia by the figure of a dove (representing the Holy Spirit) hovering in the air. Church services re-create the moment of Heilig-Geist-Schwingenm, or the coming down of the Holy Spirit, through a round window, called Heiliggeistloch, in the church’s center. During the ceremony of veni creator spiritus (“inviting the Holy Spirit”), a fake dove, tied to a golden wheel, is lowered through the hole and is brought down on a slowly rotating wheel until it is hovering just above the heads of the praying assembly.
In many churches ministers wear red robes to symbolize the flames in which the Holy Spirit descended to Earth. The hymns sung at Pentecost services have the Holy Spirit as the main theme.
However, Pentecost has been observed in many different ways around the world In Italy, for instance, it was a custom to shower rose petals from church ceilings to remember the miracle of the tongues of fire; therefore in Sicily and some other places in Italy, Whitsunday is referred to as Pascha rosatum. The Italian name, Pascha rosatum or Pascha rossa, is derived from the red colors of the vestments of Pentecost. In France it used to be a tradition to blow trumpets during the service to symbolize the wind that accompanied the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost is also a holiday in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and various Scandinavian countries.
There are many local customs and traditions attached to this day. For most pastoral regions in Europe, for example, Pentecost was the day to take the livestock out to pasture for the first time in the year. The first or the final animal would be decorated with a garland of flowers and was called the Pfingstochse or “the Whitsunday Ox.” In Tyrol (Austria), young men of the village, or Goaslschnalzer would use their whips in an exhibition of strength and skill, all done in a particular rhythm, without tangling the whips.
In Silesia (a region in Central Europe, bordered by Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic), the spring maypole was not put up until the day of Pentecost. As the greenery was brought in from wooded areas to decorate buildings and streets, a creature from the woods, dressed in the most fantastic fashion (usually it would be a young man, with green branches and reeds covering his body and tree bark covering his face) was brought into the village amidst much jubilation and fanfare. Once in the village, the creature would be customarily cleansed. It was also customary to guess the identity of the person in disguise. In southern Germany this individual is called Pfingstl; in Thuringia province he is known as the “wild man.” The water, the green leaves, and flowers in this tradition symbolize renewal and fruitfulness, the gifts of spring.
In Thuringia, young girls enjoyed the day with a game known as Topfschlagen, or “strike the pot.” A girl with her eyes covered had to locate and hit a pot (turned upside down) with a long-handled wooden spoon or stick. The prize was a pfingsthahn (a rooster).
This game, now popular in Germany, is no longer restricted to Pentecost. It is enjoyed by children, and a small gift such as candy is generally kept under the pot.