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Whit Sunday – May 28, 2023

Whit Sunday falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter and takes place on May 28 this year. Whit Sunday is also known as Whitsun or Whitsunday, all names that refer to what is the Christian High Holy Day of Pentecost. The name White Sunday, used more commonly in Britain, refers to the special white garments worn by the newly baptized. The festivals celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples following the death of Jesus Christ. Whitsuntide is the week beginning on Whitsunday which are Pentecost or Whitsunday, Whitmonday, and Whit-Tuesday.

History of Whit Sunday

According to the ‘New Testament’ in the “Bible,” the apostles began to speak in tongues when the Holy Spirit descended. Saint Peter took this opportunity to address the crowd and deliver the first Christian sermon. This act led to the conversion and baptism of 3,000 people. This sermon is hailed as the birth of the Christian church as a religious sect.

It is not known when the festival was first celebrated, but it was mentioned in the second century by the “Epistola Apostolorum,” a work from the Eastern church. In the third century, it was mentioned by Origen, a Christian priest and writer.

In the early church, the entire 50-day period beginning with Easter was referred to as Pentecost. Baptisms would take place at the beginning (Easter) and the end (the day of Pentecost) of the Paschal. These 50 days were seen as a festival, and each was observed as a day of joy. Solemn worship took place daily, fasting was forbidden, and no one kneeled while praying. At these services, the Acts of the Apostles were read, alms were distributed, slaves were liberated, and places of worship were decorated with evergreens.

In Western churches, priests and members of the congregation often wear red to symbolize the “tongues of fire” that descended on the disciples from the Holy Spirit, and the altar is dressed in a red frontal cloth.

Whit Sunday marks the beginning of many outdoor and springtime activities, which include festivals and organized outdoor activities. In many European countries, the Monday after Pentecost is a legal holiday.

Whit Sunday timeline

1st Century
The First Mention of Whit Sunday

In ‘Acts 20:16’ and ‘Corinthians 16:8,’ St. Paul speaks about the importance of this festival to early Christian communities.

1714
Sacred Cantatas are Composed

Johann Sebastian Bach composes several cantatas for Pentecost.

1778
Whit Sunday Celebrations are Advertised

Whitsun festivities at Sunbury, Middlesex in 1778 include 'punting' and 'wrestling' as attractions.

1871
It Becomes a Bank Holiday

Whit Monday is officially recognized as a bank holiday in the United Kingdom but loses this status in 1972.

1973
Ireland Replaces Pentecost Monday

Pentecost Monday is a public holiday until 1973 when it is replaced by the Early Summer Holiday on the first Monday in June.

Whit Sunday FAQs

Is Whit Sunday the same as Pentecost?

Pentecost is a religious holiday also known as Whitsunday, Whitsun, or Whit Sunday.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity.

Why is Pentecost called Whit Sunday?

It is believed that it stems from those who dressed in white whilst being baptized.

How to Observe Whit Sunday

  1. Attend your local church service

    Attend your local Sunday church service with your congregation. Whit Sunday celebrates the formation of the church and the first Holy Mass, so sermons on Whit Sunday are especially poignant.

  2. Attend a whit walk

    Attend a whit walk. A whit walk is a parade that is hosted by churches and chapels.

  3. Learn how to Morris dance

    Take a Morris dancing class, a tradition associated with Whit Sunday. After all, Whit Sunday is supposed to be a joyful celebration.

5 Interesting Facts About Whit Sunday

  1. Sylvia Plath wrote about Whit Sunday

    The poem entitled ‘Whitsun’ was published posthumously in 1971.

  2. Flames, wind, and doves are symbolic

    Flames, wind, a dove, and the breath of God are used to represent the Holy Spirit.

  3. It has ties to Judaism

    Whit Sunday is historically and symbolically related to the festival of Shavuot.

  4. Pentecost is a Greek word

    Pentecost originates from the Greek word 'pentekoste,' meaning 'fiftieth day’ or 'fifty.'

  5. Red represents Pentecost in the West

    Priests, ministers, and choirs wear red vestments, and in modern times, the custom has extended to the congregation wearing red clothing as well.

Why Whit Sunday is Important

  1. It is a significant holiday with a long history

    Whit Sunday has been celebrated across the world for thousands of years. It also celebrates the formation of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI once mentioned that without Pentecost, there would be no Catholic Church.

  2. It is an interesting story

    Whit Sunday and the stories around the celebrations are interesting and informative. In the original story, tongues of fire touch the apostles and bestow the ability to talk in different languages.

  3. It unifies us

    It is a time when many people across the world unite under a common belief. Whit Sunday is celebrated in all Catholic countries, and celebrating it reminds Catholics to uphold the teachings of Jesus.

Whit Sunday dates

YearDateDay
2022June 5Sunday
2023May 28Sunday
2024May 19Sunday
2025June 8Sunday
2026May 24Sunday

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