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Manchester 2010 Whit Walks
Also calledPentecost (Western), Trinity Sunday (Eastern)
Observed byIreland, United Kingdom and some former colonies
TypeChristian, Public
Begins7th Sunday After Easter
DateEaster + 49 days
2023 date28 May
2024 date19 May
2025 date8 June
2026 date24 May
Related toPentecost, Whit Monday, Whit Tuesday, Whit Friday, Trinity Sunday, Beltane[1]

Whitsun (also Whitsunday or Whit Sunday) is the name used in Britain,[2] and other countries among Anglicans and Methodists,[3] for the Christian holy day of Pentecost. It falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ's disciples (as described in Acts 2). In England it took on some characteristics of Beltane, which originated from the pagan celebration of Summer's Day, the beginning of the summer half-year, in Europe.[1] Whitsuntide, the week following Whitsunday, was one of three holiday weeks for the medieval villein;[4] on most manors he was free from service on the lord's demesne this week, which marked a pause in the agricultural year.[5] Whit Monday, the day after Whitsun, remained a holiday in Britain until 1971[6] when, with effect from 1972, the ruling Conservative Government decided to permanently replace it, following a five year trial period, with a Spring Bank Holiday on the last Monday in May. Whit had been the occasion for many varied forms of celebration, and was of significant cultural importance. It was a custom for children to receive a new set of clothes, even among the poorest families, a tradition which continued well into the 20th century.[7] [8]

In the North West of England, church and chapel parades called whit walks still take place at this time (sometimes on Whit Friday, the Friday after Whitsun).[9] Typically, the parades include brass bands and choirs; girls attending are dressed in white. Traditionally, Whit fairs (sometimes called Whitsun ales[10]) took place. Other customs, such as Morris dancing, were associated with Whitsun, although in most cases they have been transferred to the Spring bank holiday. Whaddon, Cambridgeshire, has its own Whitsun tradition of singing a unique song around the village before and on Whit Sunday itself.[11]


The name is a contraction of "White Sunday", attested in "the Holy Ghost, whom thou didst send on Whit-sunday"[12] in the Old English homilies, and parallel to the mention of hwitmonedei in the early 13th-century Ancrene Riwle.[13] Walter William Skeat noted that the Anglo-Saxon word also appears in Icelandic hvitasunnu-dagr, but that in English the feast was called Pentecoste until after the Norman Conquest, when white (hwitte) began to be confused with wit or understanding.[14] According to one interpretation, the name derives from the white garments worn by catechumens, those expecting to be baptised on that Sunday.[15] Moreover, in England white vestments, rather than the more usual red, were traditional for the day and its octave. A different tradition is that of the young women of the parish all coming to church or chapel in new white dresses on that day. However, Augustinian canon John Mirk (c. 1382–1414), of Lilleshall Abbey, Shropshire, had another interpretation:

Goode men and woymen, as ȝe knowen wele all, þys day ys called Whitsonday, for bycause þat þe Holy Gost as þys day broȝt wyt and wysdome ynto all Cristes dyscyples.[16]

Thus, he thought the root of the word was "wit" (formerly spelt "wyt" or "wytte") and Pentecost was so-called to signify the outpouring of the wisdom of the Holy Ghost on Christ's disciples.[17]

The following day is Whit Monday, a name coined to supersede the form Monday in Whitsun-week used by John Wycliffe and others. The week following Whit Sunday is known as "Whitsuntide" or "Whit week".[18]


As the first holiday of the summer, Whitsun was one of the favourite times in the traditional calendar, and Whit Sunday, or the following week, was a time for celebration. This took the form of fêtes, fairs, pageants and parades, with Whitsun ales and Morris dancing in the south of England and Whit walks, Club Days and wakes in the north.[19] A poster advertising the Whitsun festivities at Sunbury, Middlesex in 1778 listed the following attractions:

On Whit Monday, in the morning, will be a punting match ... The first boat that comes in to receive a guinea...In the afternoon a gold-laced hat, worth 30s. to be cudgell'd for ... On Whit Tuesday, in the morning, a fine Holland smock and ribbons, to be run for by girls and young women. And in the afternoon six pairs of buckskin gloves to be wrestled for.[19]

In Manchester during the 17th century the nearby Kersal Moor Whit races were the great event of the year when large numbers of people turned the area into a giant fairground for several days.[20] With the coming of industrialisation it became convenient to close down whole towns for a week in order to clean and maintain the machinery in the mills and factories. The week of closure, or wakes week, was often held at Whitsuntide. A report in John Harlan and T.T. Wilkinson's Lancashire Folk lore (1882) reads:

It is customary for the cotton mills etc., to close for Whitsuntide week to give the hands a holiday; the men going to the races etc. and the women visiting Manchester on Whit-Saturday, thronging the markets, the Royal Exchange and the Infirmary Esplanade, and other public places: And gazing in at the shop windows, whence this day is usually called 'Gaping Sunday'.[19]

Whit Monday was officially recognised as a bank holiday in the UK in 1871, but lost this status in 1972 when the fixed Spring Bank Holiday was created.[6]

In literature

In film

See also


  1. ^ a b Jones, Prudence; Pennick, Nigel (20 February 1997). A history of pagan Europe. Routledge. p. 124. ISBN 0-415-15804-4. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  2. ^ Anon. "High Court Sittings: Law Terms". The Courts Service. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  3. ^ The Book of Worship for Church and Home: With Orders of Worship, Services for the Administration of the Sacraments and Other Aids to Worship According to the Usages of the Methodist Church. Methodist Publishing House. 1964. p. 126. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  4. ^ The others being Yuletide, the week following Christmas, and Easter Week, the week following Easter that ended at Hocktide (Homans 1991).
  5. ^ George C. Homans, English Villagers of the Thirteenth Century, 2nd ed. 1991:369.
  6. ^ a b Banking and Financial Dealings Act, 1971, Schedule 1, para 1.
  7. ^ "Whit Monday in the United Kingdom".
  8. ^ "The nostalgia column with Margaret Watson". Dewsbury Reporter. May 20, 2017.
  9. ^ "Whit Friday: Whit Walks". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  10. ^ Liz Woods. "Feasts and Festivals".
  11. ^ Nigel Strudwick. "Reviving the Whaddon Whitsun Song".
  12. ^ Skeat, Walter William (1898) [1882]. An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (3rd ed.). Clarendon Press. p. 708. ISBN 978-0-19-863104-0. the Holy Ghost, whom thou didst send on Whit-sunday; O. Eng. Homilies, i. 209, 1. 16.
  13. ^ Both noted in Walter William Skeat, An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. "Whitsun".
  14. ^ Skeat.
  15. ^ Campion, William Magan (1870). The Prayer book interleaved with historical illustrations and explanatory notes arranged parallel to the text. Vol. 5. p. 125. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  16. ^ Theodore Erbe (editor) (1905). Mirk's Festial: a Collection of Homilies, Kegan Paul et al., for the Early English Text Society, p.159 accessed 15 December 2014 at Internet Archive.
  17. ^ Anon (29 May 1869). "Whitsuntide". The Manchester Times. Manchester, UK.
  18. ^ Anon. "Whitsuntide". The Free Online Dictionary. Farlex Inc. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  19. ^ a b c Roud, Steve (31 March 2008). The English Year (eBook). ePenguin. ISBN 978-0-14-191927-0.
  20. ^ Dobkin, Monty (1999). Broughton and Cheetham Hill in Regency and Victorian times. Neil Richardson. ISBN 1-85216-131-0.

3 Annotations

First Reading

Jim Eikner  •  Link

Whitsuntide is the week of Pentecost, beginning 50 days after Easter on Whitsunday. "Whitsun" refers to the white robes worn by the newly baptised on Whitsunday. Whitsun Ales, fairs with plays and dancing, were popular during the week.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Whitsun coincides with England's best weather, and is a perfect time for a holiday, often featuring strenuous outside activity.

One early proponent of sports -- inspired by King James' book, "The Book of Sports", first published in 1618 and reissued by King Charles in 1633, was Robert Dover, one of the Grand Company of Ancients of Gray's Inn.

In 1612 Dover became involved in organizing the games held on the hillside above Chipping Campden which subsequently became known as Robert Dover's Cotswold Olimpick games.
Many contemporaries credit Dover with founding the games, but it is more likely he became involved with a traditional Cotswold Whit festivity and added his own ideas.

His games were held on the Thursday and Friday of Whitsun week. Shakespeare may have attended them.

The games had activities for all levels of society: horse-racing, backswords, wrestling, jumping, tumbling, spurning the bar, throwing the sledge-hammer, and pike exercises — with dancing for ladies, and feasting in tents.

A castle was built from which guns were fired to introduce events.
Competitors and spectators came from 60 miles around, and as many as prizesm including Dover's yellow favors were awarded.

Detailed accounts of the games are to be found in "Annalia Dubrensia: upon the yeerely celebration of Mr. Robert Dover's Olimpick games upon the Cotswold Hills", published in London in 1636 by Matthew Walbancke.
This included 33 poems by poets like Ben Jonson, Sir John Mennes, and Thomas Heywood.
Many had attended the games, and all admired Dover's character, referring to him as jovial, generous, heroic, and noble-minded.
The frontispiece shows the games, with Dover as master of ceremonies: an impressive figure, dressed ceremonially in hat with feather and ruff (which originally belonged to James I).

An early supporter was Sir Baptist Hicks (the city merchant who built the almshouses and the market hall in Chipping Campden).
Later he was supported by Endymion Porter, groom of the bedchamber to King Charles, whose lived nearby at Aston-sub-Edge.

Prince Rupert attended the games in 1636.

The games conveyed the ideals of the original Greek Olympic games, and Dover, in referring to his sports as honest and harmless, criticized Puritan views of games.

Robert Dover oversaw the games until 1644 when they were cancelled by the vicar of St. James's, Chipping Campden.

Robert Dover died at Barton-on-the-Heath and was buried at St. Lawrence's Church, Barton, on 24 July, 1652.

Dover's Olimpick Games were revived after the Restoration and continued annually, their location becoming known as Dover's Hill.
They were described by William Somervile in his poem "Hobbinol", first drafted as 'The Wicker Chair' in 1708.

Information from…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

At some point Pentecost, the day the holy spirit descended upon the apostles of Christ, became known as “Whitsunday”. Kalendarium gives a suggestion: "... popularly called Whitsuntide, the Dominica Alba of the middle ages, because the catechumens, newly baptized, appeared from Easter to Whitsuntide in white garments; hence White Sunday ..."

Whitsun falls on the 7th Sunday following Easter. The week following is called Whitsuntide or Whitsun Week.

In some churches, a wooden dove might be attached to the ceiling to represent the Holy Spirit during services, as described in Googe's translation of the disparaging but trustworthy Naogeorgus:
"On Whitsunday whyte pigeons tame in strings from heaven flie.
And one that framed is of wood still hangeth in the skie.
Thou seest how they with Idols play, and teach the people to;
None otherwise then little gyrles with puppets use to do."

Over time Whitsuntide became more about feasting and entertainment.
While details vary, the week before was about collecting meat, drink, and coincidentally the local church's petty cash fund.
The guilds of wealthier towns such as York, Chester and Wakefield took their rolling stages out of storage, loaded up the costumes and props to portray the temptation of Adam and Eve, Noah and his shrewish wife, and other biblical stories. ...

The Wakefield plays began in the mid-14th century. Smaller towns presented humbler scripts of biblical stories with less equipment, all salted with secular jokes.

The feasts around these festivities featured Whitsun Ales in most parishes. ...

Catechumen were baptisted.
Players acted.
Morris Dancers pranced and minstrels strolled.
Food and strong ale were consumed.

A decorated tree at the door of the churchisr explained by the Medii Aevi Kalendarium: "An arbour, called Robin Hood's Bower, was erected in the church-yard, and here maidens stood gathering contributions."

Robin Hood was usually master of the archery competition featured in such festivals, keeping English bowmen practiced for military service. John Aubrey of a Wiltshire Whitsun in the early 17th century:
"In every parish was a church-house, to which belonged spits, crocks, and other utensils for dressing provisions. Here the housekeepers met. The young people were there too, and had dancing, bowling, shooting at butts, &c. the ancients sitting gravely by, and looking on."

As the bow and arrow were replaced by firearms, the Robin Hood competitions faded into memory. They seem to have been replaced during the 16th century by horse racing.
Extracted from https://vgs-pbr-reviews.blogspot.…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


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