St Peters Basilica, Holy Spirit window
When is Whit Monday?
It marks the end of the Easter cycle, that began 90 days ago with Ash Wednesday at the start of Lent.
Until fairly recently, Whit Monday was a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland. Until 1967, it was a bank holiday in the United Kingdom, when it was replaced by the 'spring bank holiday' on the last Monday in May .
It gets its English name for following "Whitsun", the day that became one of the three baptismal seasons.
The day commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit in the form of flames to the Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament in Acts, 2.
The Holy Spirit allowed the apostles to speak in other languages, and they started preaching the word of Jesus to the Jews who come to Jerusalem for the feast of Shavuot (Pentecost). Many Christians recognize this event as the birth of the Church.
The following day, Whitmonday (Pentecost Monday) is celebrated as a holiday in many European counties.
Did you know?
In some northern European countries, such as Finland and Estonia, the usual custom of painting eggs happens at Whitsun rather than Easter as Chickens didn't start laying eggs until later in the year due to less daylight before the advent of electric lights.
The holiday is celebrated in Greece as Pentecost or Holy Spirit Monday. The date in the Orthodox church will differ from the Western church due to the different methods of calculating the date of Easter.
The whole of Pentecost week used to be a holiday, but after the 1789 revolution only the Monday remained a public holiday.
In 2003, France suffered a heat wave, which resulted in almost 15,000 deaths, mainly elderly people. This prompted the idea of how to increase the funding for additional care for the elderly. In 2005, it was decided to encourage workers to give up one day's holiday - and Lundi de Pentecôte was selected. At first, an encouraging 44% of people gave up the holiday, but this amount diminished over the years; so much so that it was reinstated as a public holiday in 2008, instead the idea now is that each French worker has a 'solidarity day'. They can give up a holiday, a vacation day, a compensation day or even seven hours divided up all through the year.
In Switzerland, Whit Monday is also known as Pentecost Monday and is a public holiday in all cantons apart from Valais.