Pentecost (meaning fifty days) is the old Greek name for the Jewish harvest festival or Festival of Weeks, known in Hebrew as Shavuot. It commemorates God giving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, fifty days after the Israelites were led out of Egypt by Moses.

For Christians, Pentecost commemorates the time the early Christian Church began, when the Holy Spirit came to the twelve apostles; it is sometimes called the ‘birthday of the Church’. We celebrate Pentecost fifty days after Easter.


Jesus’ disciples, as they continued to spread God’s word, also became known as the apostles. They chose Matthias to replace Judas and make their number up to twelve again.

On the day of the Jewish harvest festival of Pentcost, the apostles were together in one room. Suddenly, the sound of a mighty wind was heard rushing through the house, and a small flame flickered over the head of each man – a sign that the Holy Spirit was with them. They looked around in wonder, and as they began to talk to each other, found that they were able to speak in many different languages.

As the disciples walked through the streets of Jerusalem, news of their astonishing gift spread. Jewish people from many different countries had come to Jerusalem to for the festival. They came up to talk to the apostles and were amazed because they could speak and understand any language from any part of the world.

Then Peter started to preach to the crowd. He told them about Jesus, and the miracles he performed in God’s name. He told them how Jesus had died on the cross, rose again from the dead, and was now with his father in heaven.

“But what should we do? How can we be saved?” everybody asked anxiously.

“Turn away from sin,” Peter replied. “Repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children.” Those who accepted what Peter had said were baptised; about 3,000 people became followers of Jesus that day.

You can read this account in the Bible in Acts, chapter 2.


It was a tradition in some churches to baptise adults at Pentecost.  The newly baptised people would wear white robes on that day, so Pentecost was often called "Whitsunday" or "White Sunday" after these white baptismal garments.  Many Christian calendars still use this term today.


Confirmation Sunday is the day when young people, having been instructed in the basic Christian faith, declare their faith in the presence of the church.  The key to understanding confirmation is to recognise that the faith the young people confess is not of their own making; it is the gift of God. The Holy Spirit who empowered the disciples to preach two thousand years ago is the same Spirit who empowers the young people to make their confession.  This is why many churches celebrate the rite of confirmation at Pentecost. It is traditional in some churches for girls to wear white dresses for the confirmation service.


There are three ‘mega-festivals’ in the Christian year. Christmas and Easter are well known to believers and non-believers alike, but not everyone is as familiar with the third, Pentecost. God’s wonderful Christmas gift of His Son, and Jesus’ Easter triumph over death would be of no benefit to us if the Holy Spirit did not give us the gift of faith.  Through the Bible and the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit gives us faith to believe and trust in Jesus.  This precious gift of faith is the reason Pentecost is the third ‘mega-festival’ of the church and why we should celebrate it with such joy and thanksgiving.

Do you like these flaming Pentecost cupcakes? They are decorated with yellow icing and topped with mini marshmallows cut in half and dipped in coloured sugar.


Whitsuntide, the week following Whit Sunday or Pentecost, was traditionally a time for celebration as the first holiday of the summer, and is linked with some strange traditions

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