Pentecost is one of the most significant dates of the Christian calendar. The festival is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter, marking fifty days since the final Sabbath of Passover, and therefore falls on a different date each year. It commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples following the death of Jesus Christ. The first Pentecost marked the beginning of the Christian church as an official, meaningful movement, so the celebration is widely considered the birthday of Christianity. The name comes from the Greek ‘pentekostos’ meaning 50.
Traditionally, the church has referred to the celebration as ‘Whitsun’ or ‘Whit Sunday’ and it is believed that the name comes from Pentecost being a day for baptisms, when participants would dress in white. ‘Whitsun’ is also thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘wit’ meaning ‘understanding’, to celebrate the disciples being filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Up to 1978 the festival was marked by a UK bank holiday on Whit Monday, the day after Whit Sunday, before it was replaced by the current Spring Bank Holiday on the last Monday of May. The day is still popular for baptisms and folk traditions such as cheese rolling and Morris dancing also have long-standing associations with Whit Sunday.
Within academies and schools these historical and religious explanations may have become lost over time and this is now simply ‘May half-term’. You might want to share the heritage with your children so they understand the significance of this point in our Christian and academy calendar?
These kinds of shared knowledge make up our culture and are often passed down orally from one generation to another, and then reinforced in schools or through the media. They are certainly important to keep alive.