Whitsun is a religious event celebrated by Christians across the globe every year.
But what is it, what date does it fall on this year and how long does it last?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is Whitsun?
The Christian festival of Pentecost, also known in the UK as Whitsun or Whitsunday, marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on Christ’s disciples.
The following day is known as Whit Monday.
There are various beliefs as to where ‘Whitsun’ gets its name from, with one being that it means ‘White Sunday’, which refers to the Old English homilies which said: “The Holy Ghost, whom thou didst send on Whit-sunday.”
Another is that Whitsun is referred to as this due to the white garments previously worn by those being baptised on this day.
When is Whitsun 2021?
Whitsun falls on on the seventh Sunday after Easter, which means this year it falls on 23 May 2021.
As the date of Whitsun is decided according to the date of Easter, this changes every year.
The earliest date Whitsun took place was on 10 May in 1818.
Whit Monday - the day after Whit Sunday - used to be celebrated as a bank holiday in the UK until this was changed in 1971 to the last Monday in May, which remains in place today.
This year’s spring bank holiday therefore falls on Monday 31 May.
In England, the May school holidays this year will generally begin on 27 May, with schools returning on Monday 6 June. However, this may vary depending on your school or area.
In Northern Ireland, schools will be closed for the second May bank holiday on 31 May, with pupils in Wales having up to a week off, after breaking up from school on Monday 31 May.
In Scotland, the holiday dates are a little different and could differ depending on city councils, but generally speaking, children will get one day two days off later in the month, usually on 28 and 30 May.
How did Whitsun used to be celebrated?
Medieval workers were traditionally given the whole of Whitweek off, but this is no longer the case.
Agricultural workers were also given the week off as it was a natural break in the farming season.
Today, Whitsun is usually celebrated with church services, but it used to be a larger event, with church parades to mark the day, and fairs across the week.
Parades would include choirs and traditions such as Morris dancing.
How will Whitsun be celebrated this year?
Although church services are usually held to mark Whitsun, this may differ this year depending on both where you live in the UK and on your local church, due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.
Special church services for Whitsun are usually held around the globe, focusing on the descent of the Holy Spirit, with Christian churches usually celebrating Whitsun in order to recognise and acknowledge God’s gift of the holy spirit.