After the major Christian festival of Pentecost, Martinique celebrates yet another religious holiday — Whit Monday which falls on May 20. Taking place the day after Pentecost, Whit Monday, also called ‘Pentecost Monday’ or ‘Monday of the Holy Spirit’ is a Christian holiday that has been around since the first century. On this day, Christians everywhere, including in Martinique, commemorate the Holy Spirit, who descended before Christ’s faithful apostles, giving them the power to speak in different languages so they could spread Christ’s message to the world.
History of Whit Monday (Martinique)
Whit Monday neatly rounds off the seven-week Easter celebration that is observed in most Catholic countries and their former colonies. People commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit, and, in countries like Germany, attend obligatory church services too. The once-popular Whit Monday, which was on par with Christmas and Easter celebrations, is no longer celebrated with the same fervor as before. Its popularity has waned slightly, but to Christians everywhere, Whit Monday is still a holiday of note.
In Martinique, which has a majority Christian population, people spend the day off enjoying quality time with loved ones and exploring the beautiful island they call home. Religious services are organized and attended by the most faithful. The island has been celebrating this day for years ever since Christianity was introduced here during the early 14th and 15th centuries. The process was an eventual one.
The first European settlers had slowly decimated the indigenous population, and the few French Catholic priests who came in later did not see eye to eye with the Huguenots who sought religious freedom. Multiple rules and regulations to curb freedom of religious worship under French rule led to Christianity being the primary religion on the island. Slaves and laborers brought onto the island added to the cultural diversity, and today, Martinique boasts a well-melded mix of people of European, Africa, and even Indian descent. As 90% of the population is Christian, celebrations like Whit Monday are public holidays, when the entire population gets the day off.
Whit Monday (Martinique) timeline
King Louis XIV issues a ban on a previous law that allowed the freedom to practice any religion, leading to mass immigration of Protestants from Martinique and neighboring French colonies.
A special 'Council of Constance,' recognized by the Catholic Church, limits the week-long prohibition of work to three days; this becomes the foundation for what we now call 'Whit Week' celebrations.
Slaves from Africa and laborers from India and other parts of the world add to the population of Martinique.
France officially proclaims Whit Monday to be a public holiday on this date.
Whit Monday (Martinique) FAQs
What is Whit Monday in the Caribbean?
For most Caribbean islands Whit Monday is an official holiday or celebration, according to Christian tradition.
Which countries have Whit Monday?
Countries like Barbados, Austria, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Central African Republic, Congo (Republic), Denmark, French Guiana, the U.K., and the U.S. all celebrate this holiday.
Is Whit Monday celebrated in France?
‘Lundi de Pentecôte,’ as it is called in France, was once a major celebration in addition to being a public holiday. This religious event is now an unpaid day off for all of France.
Whit Monday (Martinique) Activities
Learn about Whit Monday around the world
As you discover Whit Monday the Martinique way, take some time to learn how other countries celebrate this day. Check out special events and activities online, and read up on the different traditions that make this celebration unique to every country.
Discuss the holiday
Sit down with a practicing Catholic to learn what Whit Monday means to them. See how they observe this day and join them in the celebrations if you can.
Visit a religious place or two
Go to a chapel or enter a church. Take in the history and architecture that makes each site unique. You can even plan a special trip to Martinique, which has around 49 historic parishes for you to visit.
5 Fun Facts About Martinique And Whit Monday
Martinique was France's first colony
The French colony on the island of Martinique, set up in 1635, was the country's first permanent colony in the West Indies.
Columbus spent three days there
After sighting the island in 1493, Christopher Columbus landed on Martinique after a 21-day voyage — his fastest trip at the time — and spent three days bathing, refilling his water stores, and doing laundry.
Whit Monday was celebrated outdoors
Whit Monday, and the entirety of Whit Week — including Whit Sunday, Whit Monday, and Whit Tuesday — coincided with summer, so celebrations included many outdoor activities.
Whit Monday is perfect for baptisms
According to Christianity, Whit Monday is considered to be a good time to be baptized or re-baptized.
Whit Sunday isn't a day off
It might fall on a Sunday, but for private businesses and shops, it is business as usual on Whit Sunday, as this day has not been declared a public holiday.
Why We Love Whit Monday (Martinique)
It could have spawned the Catholic church
According to legend, and some theologians, the Holy Spirit's descent and subsequent blessing of the apostles helped one of them deliver a sermon to a large gathering of people. Christians believe this was the very first sermon in the very first church ever.
It holds immense religious significance
Whit Monday forms part of the 'Whit Week' celebrations. It is linked to Pentecost, which is another special Christian holiday, and was turned into a fixed annual celebration called ‘Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church' by the Pope.
It follows Easter
Whit Monday comes exactly 50 days after Easter, which is another beloved Christian holiday. Whit Monday officially marks the end of the Easter season for Christians.
Whit Monday (Martinique) dates