Pentecost (Whitsun)

The word ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek word for 'fifty', and it always falls 50 days after Easter. At Pentecost, Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised to his disciples. The occasion for this was ten days earlier at the Ascension, when Jesus returned to heaven and the disciples saw him on earth for the last time. Ascension is also remembered by the Christian church today and it falls 40 days after Easter Sunday.

Pentecost is also remembered as the birthday of the Church because through the power of the Holy Spirit the disciples began to spread the message of Christianity. The Bible records that over 3,000 people were baptised on this day.

Pentecost provides an opportunity for Christians to reflect on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When Pentecost is celebrated in churches, symbols representing the Holy Spirit (such as fire) are talked and sung about and displayed.

Traditionally, Pentecost is a time for admitting new members to the Church through baptism. People dress in white to symbolise purity. As a consequence the day became known as White Sunday, Whit Sunday or Whitsun.