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Status: 05/16/2023 12:07 p.m

Pentecost is an important Christian holiday, yet many do not know its meaning. What exactly are believers celebrating with the “Feast of the Holy Spirit” which falls on May 28th and 29th in 2023?

Many use the long Pentecost weekend, which is always in spring, for excursions into the countryside, a short vacation, as well as meetings with friends and sports festivals. At the same time, Pentecost is of great importance for believing Christians and is considered an important festival that, like Christmas and Easter, is celebrated with two public holidays.

What do Christians celebrate at Pentecost?

Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Spirit, which, according to the Christian faith, fills and unites all believers worldwide, explains the Evangelical Church on their website. Pentecost is therefore considered the “birthday of the church”. The portal puts it similarly catholic.de: “The Holy Spirit created the unity of the believers and raised the church from baptism.” For Christians, the Holy Spirit is the love that flows from God to people.

When is Pentecost?

With the days of Pentecost, Easter ends after 50 days. The term Pentecost is derived from the Greek word “pentekosté”, the fiftieth. Up until the 4th century, Pentecost also celebrated the ascension of Christ. Then gradually a separate holiday developed for it.

Where are the origins?

Pentecost is believed to have its roots in the Jewish festival of Shavuot, a celebration of the first harvest of the year. For this purpose, numerous pilgrims came to Jerusalem. According to an Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, a wind swept over the assembled believers and they were able to preach in foreign languages: they were filled with the Holy Spirit, who encouraged and enabled them to proclaim the Good News. This event is considered the starting point for the missionary work of Jesus’ disciples and is therefore a central point in Christianity, which distinguishes it from Judaism, for example, which has no active mission.

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Which symbols stand for Pentecost?

The traditional cattle drive attracts many visitors to the Upper Harz every year.

A white dove often stands as a symbol for the Holy Spirit and thus for Pentecost. In the biblical story of Pentecost doves play no role, flames and fire are mentioned instead. Like peonies, the Pfingstox refers to the season: At Pentecost, after a long winter, farmers drove their cattle, some of them decorated, back up to the alpine pastures. This event is still celebrated today in Wildemann in the Upper Harz with a parade and many visitors on Pentecost Sunday. Other customs at Whitsun, such as maypoles or bonfires, are only of regional importance.

How do Christians celebrate Pentecost?

The Christian churches celebrate Pentecost with significantly fewer services than Christmas or Easter. They often invite to prayers, festivals or processions in the open air.

Further information

Margot Käßmann and Arne-Torben Voigts © NDR Photo: NDR

35 Min

Pentecost – an underestimated festival? Arne-Torben Voigts and theologian Margot Käßmann talk about this in the podcast “Mensch Margot!”. 35 mins

A colored church window shows Jesus Christ on the cross.  © imago images / ingimage

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This topic in the program:

NDR 1 Lower Saxony | 05/14/2021 | 7:05 p.m

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