When is Whitsun 2024? Why Pentecost is celebrated in the UK

St Paul’s Cathedral in London  (AFP via Getty Images)
St Paul’s Cathedral in London (AFP via Getty Images)

Whitsun, or Whit Sunday, was celebrated on Sunday, May 19. It is celebrated in the UK as a Christian festival to mark the occasion of Pentecost.

Whit Monday falls the day after and was itself a bank holiday until 1972, when it was replaced by the Spring Bank Holiday.

But what is Pentecost and why do Christians celebrate Whitsun?

What is Pentecost?

Christians celebrate Pentecost 50 days after Easter Sunday to commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s disciples.

These events happened in the book of Acts within the Bible and proved a major turning point in the New Testament. Acts 2 states early Christians were "filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance". While Christians were persecuted in this time, the zealousness of the believers allowed the movement to grow.

Traditionally a great feast is held to celebrate the event. Pentecost has been marked for hundreds of years and still a key date in the diary within Anglican and Methodist churches. However, it is not always picked up in more modern churches, if even mentioned.

Is Pentecost the same as Whitsun?

Whitsun is the name used in Britain for Pentecost and different regions keep different traditions. In the north west, whit walks are known to take place with brass bands and choirs accompanying church clergy on marches around towns and cities such as Manchester. Other villages mark the occasion with Morris dancing, while Whaddon village in Cambridgeshire brings Whitsun in with the singing of a unique song.

When is Whitsun?

Pentecost, and indeed Whitsun, always fall on the seventh Sunday after Easter.

This usually comes in late May or early June. In 2025, the date will be June 8.

The date is the same in different sections of Christianity.

While the date of Pentecost is always on a Sunday, many other countries still have the equivalent of Whit Monday as a public holiday.