When is Whitsun 2023? Date of Pentecost, what is it, is it a bank holiday and do children get half term

Whitsun takes place on the seventh Sunday after Easter commemorating the descent of the holy spirit upon Christ’s disciples

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Whitsun, also known as Whit Sunday, is a Christian observance mainly celebrated in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Taking place on the seventh Sunday after Easter, the observance marks the Christian festival of Pentecost.

The Christian observance commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on Christ's disciples. The festival also takes on some of the traditions of Beltane, as well as marking a pause in the agricultural year during the medieval villein. But when is Whitsun 2023 and how is the festival observed?

When is Whitsun 2023? 

Whitsun falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter celebrations, which is roughly 49 days after Easter Sunday. This year, Whitsun falls on 28 May 2023. There is no separate date for those who follow the Orthodox Church as the way Pentecost is observed differs.

As the date of Whitsun is decided according to the date of Easter, this changes every year, making it another moveable feast in the Christian calender. The earliest date Whitsun took place was on 10 May in 1818.

Is there a Whitsun bank holiday?

Since 1871, the day after Whitsun, Whit Monday, was celebrated as a bank holiday in the UK, but this was changed in 1971. From 1972, we now have the Spring Bank Holiday on the last Monday of May to replace it. This year, the Spring Bank Holiday is Monday 29 May 2023.

Whitsun is a religious event celebrated by Christians across the globe every year (Photo: Shutterstock)Whitsun is a religious event celebrated by Christians across the globe every year (Photo: Shutterstock)
Whitsun is a religious event celebrated by Christians across the globe every year (Photo: Shutterstock)

Are there Whitsun school holidays?

Whitsun School holidays have been replaced by the Summer half term break, which changes according to local authorities, but the half term usually covers the Spring Bank holiday,

Many local authorities have put this year’s Summer half term between Monday 29 May to Friday 2 June 2023, but check with the schools and council’s timetable in your local authority to see if these dates applies to you too.

What is Whitsun?

Whitsun is the name used in Britain to commemorate the Holy day of Pentecost, where Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists believe the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ as they celebrated the Feast of Weeks, a Jewish festival, described in the Acts of the Apostles.

In Eastern Christianity, Pentecost can refer to the entire fifty days of Easter. But since this festival depends on Easter, it is a moveable feast. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Pentecost is one of twelve Great feasts and is a Solemnity, a feast of high rank, in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.

Pentecost derives from the Greek Πεντηκοστή (Pentēkostē) meaning "fiftieth", and links to the Jewish festival Shavuot celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover. The name “Whitsun” comes from “White Sunday” from the Old English homilies, “the Holy Ghost, whom thou didst send on Whit-Sunday".

In the UK, Whitsun took on some characteristics of Beltane, the Gaelic May Day festival.

How is Whitsun observed? 

Whitsun marked the first holiday of summer, similarly to how Beltane marks the halfway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Due to its joyous nature, Whitsun was a time for celebration and marked in the form of fêtes, fairs, pageants and parades.

In the south of England, Whitsun ales, and morris dancing was a popular tradition, but in the north Whit walks, Club days and wakes were popular. In the North West of England, church and chapel parades called whit walks still occur, sometimes taking place on the Friday before Whitsun, known as Whit Friday.

Parades adorn the street, with brass bands, choirs and fairs. In Whaddon, Cambridgeshire, a Whitsun tradition includes singing a unique song around the village before and on Whitsun. Another tradition is to also wear white garments, and women are encouraged to wear white to church.