Pentecost is a religious holiday that marks the descent of the Holy Spirit (in the form of a flame) on Jesus’ disciples, succeeding the Ascension of Jesus himself. According to the bible, the Holy Spirit conversed with the disciples in a host of languages, in turn encouraging them to spread the message of Jesus Christ.
This weekend holiday spans both Sunday and Monday, with Whitsunday (Pentecost Sunday) being celebrated approximately 50 days/7 weeks after Easter and 10 days after Ascension. In Germany, Whit Monday is observed the day after Whitsunday as the second day of Pentecost, and is regarded as a public holiday. Pentecost which is regarded as the birth of the Church therefore marks the conclusion of the Easter cycle.
How is Pentecost celebrated in Germany?
Pentecost is referred to as Pfingsten in Germany, and many Christians usually attend a special church service on this religious holiday. Additionally, there are numerous spring fun fairs held during the Pentecost weekend throughout Germany.
There are several local customs that are observed during this holiday. These include:
- Fresh birch trees are used in this ‘planting of the Pentecost tree’ custom. They can be either braided into a garland using birch tree leaves and placed between 2 birch trees, or the birch sprig can be placed underneath an unmarried woman’s window by a potential male suitor.
- This ‘Pentecost tree wreath’ custom involves locals dancing and singing traditional songs around an erected Pentecost tree on both Whitsunday and Whit Monday.
- In this ‘ Pentecost Ox’ Whitsunday custom, cattle in rural areas (normally in the South of Germany) are driven towards fields often located high in the mountains. The strongest animals are identified during this activity and are adorned with ribbons, flowers and straw. They are then made to lead a street procession.
- Many German locals believe that the night between Whitsunday and Whit Monday is the period when evil spirits become active; stealing and unlocking people’s property. Certain people respond to this belief by impersonating evil spirits and moving people’s property around.
In a few German states, many schools have a 2 week holiday during Pfingsten. Whitsunday was held on Sunday the 8th of June this year, and will be observed on the 24th of May next year.