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Pentecost 2018 and 2019

Pentecost is a major holiday in Austria, only Christmas and Easter “outranking it” in importance. The following Monday, called “Whit Monday,” is also a public holiday, and banks and some businesses are closed on both days.

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201910 JunMonWhit Monday
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Pentecost comes anywhere from mid-May to early June, its exact date moving with that of Easter, since it comes 50 days after Easter. It also comes 10 days after Ascension Day, which is also a public holiday in Austria and marks the Ascension of Christ to His Heavenly throne just after giving the Great Commission to around 500 of his onlooking disciples.

The account of the events that Pentecost commemorates are recorded in the Bible in Acts 2:1-21. It was the Jewish Feast of Weeks, seven weeks after the Passover, and the Jerusalem believers were gathered in an upper room where they were praying and waiting for the promise of the Spirit.

Then, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon them, and they began to speak in other languages and evangelise the city. Over 3,000 were converted and baptised, and the Church began to fulfil Christ’s command of world evangelisation.

Pentecost is a three-day weekend that many Austrians take advantage of to go on a short vacation, and many come from Germany and other European nations to visit Austria at this time of year. Yet, it is certainly not peak tourist season, and the beautiful spring weather is very refreshing after the long alpine winter.

There are many special church services held throughout Austria on Pentecost, with readings from the Bible of the Pentecost events and sermons on its significance to us today. Baptisms, christenings, confirmations, and other church events are often scheduled, and symbols of the Holy Spirit, such as doves and tongues of fire are put on display.

Homes are decorated at this time of year with green branches and flowers, and many also wear new-bought clothes. After Pentecost church services, many will eat a special “Pentecost bread” and then go on a picnic.

Some also dress up with leaves and flowers wrapped around their bodies, and some localities hold processions and events with folk songs, folk games, and free beer for all.

If in Austria for Pentecost, some things to do include:

  • In late May, often around the time of Pentecost, the “Narzissenfest” (Daffodil Festival) takes place in the Ausseerland district of Austria. Giant figures are woven out of thousands of daffodils, and these “sculptures” are carted around towns in wagons and over lakes on boats. There are also many accompanying cultural events at the festival, and many wear traditional Austrian attire.
  • If still in Austria, you may wish to attend Fronleichnamstag on the second Thursday after Pentecost. There are a number of costumed processions in the Salzburg area, all of which involve a giant Samson figure. He has on his armour and helmet and holds a lance in his hand. While it is not certain why this tradition exists, it has been going on since 1635 and is very entertaining.

Pentecost is a much celebrated holiday in Austria, and the local and tourist will find there are plenty of activities to take part in, both in churches and at various cultural events. It is also a perfect time to get out and explore Austria’s amazing natural scenery in the midst of spring.