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Pentecost vs. Whitsun — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Maham Liaqat — Updated on May 5, 2024
Pentecost is a major Christian holiday occurring 50 days after Easter, celebrating the Holy Spirit's descent, while Whitsun, often used interchangeably with Pentecost in many English-speaking countries, has specific cultural traditions linked to it.
Pentecost vs. Whitsun — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Pentecost and Whitsun


Key Differences

Pentecost is celebrated by Christians around the world to commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ, as described in the New Testament. This event marks a significant moment in Christian theology, symbolizing the birth of the Christian Church. Whitsun, often another name for Pentecost, especially in the UK and some other parts of the Anglican and Methodist traditions, also refers to this religious event but is traditionally associated with specific local customs and secular celebrations.
Pentecost is observed on the seventh Sunday after Easter and is considered the culmination of the Easter season. The name "Pentecost" comes from the Greek "pentēkostē," meaning "fiftieth," referring to the 50 days after Easter. Whitsun derives its name from "White Sunday," possibly referring to the practice of baptism candidates wearing white garments on this day. While Pentecost emphasizes the religious significance, Whitsun has also been linked to various folk customs and public festivities.
In religious observances, Pentecost is marked by special prayers, hymns, and sermons focusing on the Holy Spirit's power and influence in the lives of believers. Churches may be decorated with red, symbolizing the fire of the Holy Spirit. Whitsun, in regions where the term is still commonly used, might include additional elements like local parades, dancing, and even cheese rolling competitions, integrating the community in both sacred and secular celebrations.
Pentecost's impact on Christianity is profound, reinforcing beliefs in the Holy Spirit's ongoing role in spiritual guidance and empowerment. It is a day for baptisms and confirmations in many churches. Whitsun, while retaining these religious undertones, often extends into a broader cultural festival, where various non-religious traditions and activities take place, reflecting the blending of religious observance with local cultural expressions.
Though in some contexts, Whitsun is simply an older term for Pentecost and used less frequently today, its usage can invoke a sense of tradition and local heritage that goes beyond the strictly religious observance of Pentecost, portraying a deeper, community-focused celebration.

Comparison Chart


Christian holiday celebrating the Holy Spirit's descent
Often synonymous with Pentecost, but with additional cultural traditions

Origin of Name

Greek "pentēkostē" meaning "fiftieth"
From "White Sunday," possibly due to baptismal traditions

Main Significance

Marks the birth of the Christian Church
Combines religious significance with local customs


Religious services, prayers, hymns
Includes both religious observances and local festivities

Cultural Impact

Focused on spiritual renewal and empowerment
Blends sacred observances with community celebrations

Compare with Definitions


A major Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit.
The church held a vibrant Pentecost service filled with music and prayer.


Linked to the wearing of white garments by baptism candidates.
The tradition of wearing white on Whitsun dates back to early Christian rituals.


Emphasizes spiritual empowerment and renewal.
Sermons on Pentecost focus on the role of the Holy Spirit in believers' lives.


Can include non-religious community events.
The Whitsun festival included traditional folk dancing and games.


A pivotal event in Christian ecclesiastical history.
Pentecost is regarded as the birthday of the Christian Church.


Sometimes refers to a weekend or a holiday period.
Many families plan outings or short vacations during the Whitsun break.


Observed 50 days after Easter Sunday.
Pentecost is often marked by confirmations and baptisms.


Another term for Pentecost, especially in historical or regional contexts.
Whitsun was celebrated with a special community fair in the village.


Traditionally associated with the color red.
Many attendees wear red to Pentecost services to symbolize the flames of the Holy Spirit.


Often associated with public holidays and local traditions.
Whitsun parades and cheese rolling are popular in some English counties.


The Christian holiday of Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day (the seventh Sunday) from Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31).


Whitsun (also Whitsunday or Whit Sunday) is the name used in Britain, and throughout the world among Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists, for the Christian High Holy Day of Pentecost. It is the seventh Sunday after Easter, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ's disciples (as described in Acts 2).


(Christianity) The seventh Sunday after Easter, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Also called Whitsunday.


Of, relating to, or observed on Whitsunday or at Whitsuntide.


(Judaism) See Shavuot.


Of, pertaining to, or observed at, Whitsuntide; as, Whitsun week; Whitsun Tuesday; Whitsun pastorals.


A solemn festival of the Jews; - so called because celebrated on the fiftieth day (seven weeks) after the second day of the Passover (which fell on the sixteenth of the Jewish month Nisan); - hence called, also, the Feast of Weeks. At this festival an offering of the first fruits of the harvest was made. By the Jews it was generally regarded as commemorative of the gift of the law on the fiftieth day after the departure from Egypt.


Christian holiday; the week beginning on Whitsunday (especially the first 3 days)


A festival of the Roman Catholic and other churches in commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles; which occurred on the day of Pentecost; - called also Whitsunday.


Seventh Sunday after Easter; commemorates the emanation of the Holy Spirit to the apostles; a quarter day in Scotland


(Judaism) Jewish holy day celebrated on the sixth of Sivan to celebrate Moses receiving the Ten Commandments

Common Curiosities

What is Pentecost?

Pentecost is a Christian holiday commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ, celebrated 50 days after Easter.

Why is Pentecost important in Christianity?

Pentecost is considered the birth of the Christian Church, emphasizing the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding and empowering believers.

How are Pentecost and Whitsun celebrated?

Pentecost is celebrated with religious services and spiritual activities focusing on the Holy Spirit, while Whitsun may also include local festivals and community events.

What is Whitsun?

Whitsun is another name for Pentecost, particularly used in the UK and in historical contexts, often associated with additional local customs and public festivities.

What does the color red signify on Pentecost?

The color red symbolizes the Holy Spirit's fire, which is said to have descended upon the apostles during Pentecost.

What is the historical significance of Whitsun?

Historically, Whitsun was a significant feast in the Christian calendar and was celebrated with various rites and customs reflecting local cultures.

Are there specific traditions associated with Whitsun?

Yes, Whitsun traditions can vary by region and include wearing white, participating in parades, and engaging in local games and dances.

Why do people wear white on Whitsun?

Wearing white on Whitsun is linked to baptism traditions, where candidates often wear white as a symbol of purity.

What are the key symbols of Pentecost?

Key symbols include flames, a dove, and the color red, all representing aspects of the Holy Spirit.

How is Pentecost linked to Easter?

Pentecost occurs 50 days after Easter Sunday, concluding the Easter season in the Christian calendar.

Can Pentecost and Whitsun be celebrated by non-Christians?

While primarily Christian holidays, the public and cultural events associated with Whitsun can be enjoyed by a broader audience.

What kind of activities are common on Whitsun?

Activities during Whitsun may include traditional dances, sports, and various community gatherings.

Is Whitsun a public holiday?

Whitsun used to be a public holiday in many countries and still is in some places, often coinciding with cultural or spring festivals.

How does Whitsun impact local communities?

Whitsun often serves as an opportunity for community bonding through shared celebrations and traditions.

Is there a difference in the religious observance of Pentecost and Whitsun?

While they refer to the same event, Pentecost focuses more on religious observance, and Whitsun may include broader cultural celebrations.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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