Whit Monday in the Netherlands: Yet another day off work?
All over the Netherlands, people are getting ready to relax and enjoy another day off work. Whit Monday (Pinksteren) is a Dutch public holiday that is traditionally celebrated the day after Pentecost, or Whit Sunday, which is celebrated on the 50th day from Easter Sunday.
If you’re new to the Netherlands, you might have been pleasantly surprised at being handed another unexpected day off work and wondering why this Monday is more important than any other Monday. If so, keep reading to discover the importance of Whit Monday and how people in the Netherlands enjoy their day off.
What is Whit Monday?
Whit Monday - or Tweede Pinksterdag in Dutch - is a Christian holiday, celebrated one day after Pentecost (Whit Sunday); an important date in the Christian liturgical calendar. Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday, meaning that Whit Monday is always 51 days after Easter Sunday. Since Easter Sunday fell on April 9 this year, Whit Monday is on May 29.
Whit Monday holds added significance in the Catholic Church for being the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. It marks the end of the Eastertide festive season, and the resumption of Ordinary Time. In Christianity, Ordinary Time is the time between the two festive seasons of Eastertide and Christmastide and their preparatory seasons, namely Lent and Advent.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Whit Monday is known as the “Monday of the Holy Spirit” and is the first feast day after Pentecost.
What is the importance of Pentecost?
You might be wondering why Whit Monday depends on the date of Easter Sunday and Pentecost and what makes these days so important. Easter Sunday is a major event in Christianity, as it marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The date of Easter Sunday is based on the moon, and so differs every year. This means that the date of the Pentecost also changes every year, since it always falls 50 days after Easter Sunday.
Pentecost celebrates the day the Holy Spirit descended from the heavens, upon the Apostles and other disciples of Jesus. The event is described in Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the New Testament. The book describes a scene where all the disciples of Jesus were in Jerusalem, celebrating the Feast of Weeks - a Jewish harvest holiday - when a “mighty rushing wind” and flashes of fire blew through the disciples. The disciples were then enveloped by the Holy Spirit and started speaking strange languages.
Jesus’ ascension to heaven occurred 40 days after his resurrection, according to the New Testament, with Pentecost taking place ten days after His ascension. Thus, many believe that this event marks the fulfilment of an early prophecy - that Jesus would baptise his followers with the Holy Spirit. According to the book, around 120 disciples of Jesus were present at the festivities, including the Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary and Jesus’ brothers.
How are Whit Monday and Pentecost celebrated in the Netherlands?
Both Pentecost and Whit Monday are public holidays in the Netherlands. Church services will take place across the Netherlands on Pentecost Sunday, with priests wearing red robes and draping the altar in red cloth to symbolise the fire that appeared before the apostles. Unsurprisingly, the Pentecost and Whit Monday are popular days for baptisms to be held and, in fact, the term “Whit” refers to the white clothes being worn by those being baptised.
Pentecost and Whit Monday are commonly celebrated in the Netherlands with markets and festivals, with Whit Monday being the last day of several music festivals held over the weekend. One of the more popular music festivals held over this weekend is Pinkpop, which is held in Landgraaf every year. The Day of the Castle is also held on Whit Monday in the Netherlands. For the Day of the Castle, country estates, ruins and castles in the Netherlands all open their doors to the public to celebrate the country’s rich heritage and history.
An old tradition sees the bachelors in Dutch cities and towns pick a girl to be the Pentecost bride. The girl is then adorned with flowers and given a crown, before leading a procession through the town.
Nowadays, if they don’t attend markets or music festivals, people in the Netherlands tend to enjoy their day off by spending time outside, enjoying the nice weather that typically comes at the beginning of summer. If you’re looking for something to do, why not visit one of the Netherlands' beautiful national parks or take a trip to one of its many zoos, or maybe you’d prefer to chill at a nice bar, filling up on Dutch beer and snacks.
So, there you have it: the importance of Whit Monday and Pentecost. Are lucky enough to have a day off on Monday? If so, let us know in the comments how you’ll be spending Whit Monday.