Whit Sunday in the Netherlands

Pentecost, also known as Whit Sunday or Whitsunday, is an important Christian holiday in the Netherlands. It marks the Holy Spirit's descent from heaven onto Jesus' followers. It is generally a normal spring Sunday and a popular time for outdoor music festivals, short breaks and longer vacations.

Holy Cross with Dove of Peace
The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
©iStockphoto.com/Christopher Pollack

What Do People Do?

Some Christians make a special effort to attend a church service at Pentecost even if they do not attend church regularly. Many other people spend Pentecost in much the same way as any other Sunday. They spend time with family and friends, take a walk or cycle ride to enjoy the spring weather and perform household maintenance or garden tasks.

As a number of holidays fall close together at this time of year, a large number of people spend Pentecost on a short break or longer vacation. A number of outdoor music festivals are held over the long Pentecost weekend. The most widely known is Pinkpop held in Landgraaf in the southern part of the Netherlands and close to the German border. The name "Pinkpop" is derived from Pinksteren, the Dutch word for Pentecost.

Public Life

Public life in most of the Netherlands is fairly quiet at Pentecost. As on other Sundays, banks, post offices and many businesses are closed. Some stores in areas important to tourists may be open but many are closed. Public transport services run to a normal or slightly reduced Sunday timetable. As on other Sundays, there are some restrictions on the sale of alcohol.


Pentecost is 10 days after Ascension Day and seven weeks after Easter Sunday. Pentecost commemorates the decent of the Holy Spirit from heaven onto around 120 of Jesus' followers in Jerusalem, perhaps on Mount Zion. They felt "a rushing mighty wind" and some began to speak in tongues. The events caused a great deal of awe amongst Jesus' followers and around three thousand people were baptized into the Christian church the same day.

Traditionally, in some areas of the Netherlands, a Pentecost flower or bride (Pinksterblom or Pinksterbruid) was chosen from the unmarried girls by the unmarried men of the village. She was then decorated with flowers and a crown and paraded through the village. This was the start of a period for young people to form couples that might lead to marriages.

Now, these events have become a children's celebration in the eastern and southern parts of the Netherlands and on the Frisian Islands in the North Sea. During the celebration children dress in spring colors and dance around a pole holding ribbons that are attached to the top of the pole. As they dance, the ribbons become intertwined and form a decorative pattern around the pole.


Throughout Christian history, many artworks depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit have been created. In some the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove and in others as a cloud or ray of light. Most images show Jesus' followers observing the events in awe.

In Dutch, the names of two flowers are linked to Pentecost. In the northern part of the country, cow parsley and in the rest of the country cuckoo flower or lady's smock are known as Pentecost flower (pinksterbloem). Cow parsley often flowers around Pentecost, but cuckoo flower blooms earlier in the spring in most of the Netherlands.

About Whit Sunday in other countries

Read more about Whit Sunday.

Whit Sunday Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday Type
SunMay 232010Whit SundayNational holiday
SunJun 122011Whit SundayNational holiday
SunMay 272012Whit SundayNational holiday
SunMay 192013Whit SundayNational holiday
SunJun 82014Whit SundayNational holiday
SunMay 242015Whit SundayNational holiday
SunMay 152016Whit SundayNational holiday
SunJun 42017Whit SundayNational holiday
SunMay 202018Whit SundayNational holiday
SunJun 92019Whit SundayNational holiday
SunMay 312020Whit SundayNational holiday

Quick Facts

Pentecost (Pinksteren) in the Netherlands is seven weeks after Easter Sunday. It commemorates the Holy Spirit's descent from heaven onto Jesus' followers.

Whit Sunday 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Whit Sunday 2017

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Name in other languages

eerste pinksterdagDutch
Whit SundayEnglish

Alternative name

Pentecost Sunday

List of dates for other years

Related holiday

Other holidays in May 2016 in the Netherlands

United Nation Holiday on May 15, 2016

Fun Holiday on May 15, 2016

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