What Is the Pentecost and Why Is It Important to Christians Around the World?
Pentecost is a Christian holy day commemorating the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament of the Bible. It is also known as Whitsunday, or Whit Sunday, especially in the United Kingdom where Whit Monday was also a public holiday (now fixed by statute on the last Monday in May). The Monday after Pentecost is a legal holiday in many European nations.
The Christian feast day of Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Some Christians believe that this event represents the birth of the Church. The Feast of the Ascension occurs 40 days after Easter, so Pentecost is a moveable feast. In Eastern Christianity, Pentecost can also refer to the entire 50 days between Easter and the feast, and the book containing the liturgical texts for the period is called the Pentecostarion.
In the United States, Christians share their perspective about the meaning of Pentecost as well as how the diversity of languages and cultures can enhance their worship and fellowship with each another. Christians see Pentecost as an expansion of God’s favor and care from Judaism to all peoples.
Many churches celebrate Pentecost with a mass or worship service on this day. In some churches, the secular Mother’s Day holiday is probably celebrated more frequently than the Pentecost feast. As recorded in the New Testament of the Bible, it was on the 50th day after Easter that the apostles were praying together and the Holy Spirit descended on them. They received the “gift of tongues” – the ability to speak in other languages – and immediately began to preach about Jesus Christ to Jewish people from all over the world who flocked to Jerusalem for the Feast of Shavuot.
Christian Pentecost became not only a commemoration of the Holy Spirit’s visit but also marks the birth of the Christian Church. Although it is not certain when Pentecost began to be observed by Christians, it may have been early as the first century. Whitsuntide, also referred to as Whitsun in modern times, is the period beginning with the Saturday before Whitsunday and ending the following Saturday.
According to church tradition, Pentecost is always about seven weeks after Easter Sunday, or 50 days after Easter, including Easter Day. In some Orthodox churches, Whitsunday is observed after the date set by the western churches. This is because some Orthodox churches still observe holidays according to the Julian calendar, which preceded the Gregorian calendar adopted by many western churches. The symbols of Pentecost are those of the Holy Spirit and include flames, wind, and a dove.