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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.

Is Whit Sunday a Public Holiday?

Whit Sunday is a public holiday. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

In 2019 it falls on a Sunday. Due to this, some businesses may choose to follow Sunday opening hours.

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.

Since Whit Monday, the day after Whit Sunday, is also a public holiday and since a number of other holidays usually 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 during 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, particularly in predominantly Protestant areas.

Background

Pentecost is 10 days after Ascension Day and 7 weeks after Easter Sunday. Pentecost commemorates the descent 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 3000 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.

Symbols

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 2 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

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015SunMay 24Whit SundayNational holiday
2016SunMay 15Whit SundayNational holiday
2017SunJun 4Whit SundayNational holiday
2018SunMay 20Whit SundayNational holiday
2019SunJun 9Whit SundayNational holiday
2020SunMay 31Whit SundayNational holiday
2021SunMay 23Whit SundayNational holiday
2022SunJun 5Whit SundayNational holiday
2023SunMay 28Whit SundayNational holiday
2024SunMay 19Whit SundayNational holiday
2025SunJun 8Whit SundayNational holiday

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