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British Life & Culture

Special Events & Celebrations

by Mandy Barrow

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Pentecost / Whitsun

Pentecost (Whitsunday) is a major festival in the Christian church. It is celebrated on the Sunday which falls on the 50th day after the Easter festival.

What is Pentecost?

Pentecost celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit in the form of flames to the followers of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament. Jesus had told them to wait until the Spirit came to them. Ten days after ascension, 50 days after the resurrection, the Spirit came.

(Ascension Day marks the last appearance of Jesus to the disciples after his resurrection at Easter.)

When is Pentecost?

In 2010 Pentecost will fall on 23 May

What does Pentecost mean?

The name Pentecost comes from a Greek word which means 'fiftieth'.

Why is the festival called Pentecost?

The festival is often called Pentecost because when the disciples received the Holy Spirit and began to go out and preach about Jesus it was the Jewish festival of Pentecost.

Pentecost is recognised as the birth of the Christian Church. The Apostle Peter preached a sermon which resulted in 3,000 people becoming believers.

Whit Sunday

Whit Sunday is a favourite day for baptism. It is thought that because people are often baptised dressed in white, Whit Sunday was probably originally known as 'White Sunday'.

Whisuntide is the week following with Whitsunday, which is always the seventh sunday after Easter Sunday.


Customs and Traditions

Whit Walks

Christians in some towns and cities have traditionally taken part in Whit Walks. Whitsun was the time for walks and processions. The traditional "Procession of Witness" has long been celebrated throughout the North West.

Bread and Cheese Throwing

In Gloucestershire, Whit Sunday is often referred to as 'Bread and Cheese Day' because of a very strange custom that takes place on this day.

In St Braivels, Gloucestershire, following evensong on Whit Monday, basketfuls of bread and cheese are thrown from a wall near the old castle, to be scrambled for in a lane below. The locals of St Braivels have been hurling bread and cheese since the 13th century, when the custom began probably as a payment for the villagers' right to cut timber from a nearby wood.

See the photos and find out more

Cheese Rolling

Gloucester cheese Rolling. Randwick, Gloucestershire, England:
After rolling three double Gloucester cheeses around the church, one is cut up and shared amongst bystanders and the other two are rolled down a steep hill.

Stilton Cheese Rolling. Stilton, Cambridgeshire:
Teams of four, in bizarre costumes, roll stilton cheese along a 50-yard course. They must not kick or throw the cheeses. The prize is a whole Stilton Cheese, which weighs about 16 pounds, and bottles of port—the traditional accompaniment.

Cheese rolling also takes place in other areas around England.

Whitsun Ales (village festivals)

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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.