Occasions for greeting cards
The Christian churches celebrate the Pentecost on the 7th Sunday or the 50th day following Easter. It is based on the Biblical account about the apostles who, after being anointed with the Holy Spirit during the old-Jewish "Shavuot" festivities, established the first Christian congregation.
There is no evidence about existing Christian churches before this event took place. The apostles belonged to a Jewish sect who, in expectation of the Messiah, claimed to be the only representative of the true faith on earth. After Jesus was resurrected and again appeared to them three days after his impalement, they were convinced that he must have been the prophesied Messiah. They finally separated from Judaism which still anticipated the Messiah's appearance and they later became Christians together with those who shared in their conviction.
The churches of Christendom of old made it a custom to carry out immersions on the Pentecost, assuming the Holy Spirit would pass onto the baptized person. On this day, a person would wear white as a symbol of purity, leading to the well-known expression "White Sunday" or "Whitsun". The German expression for Pentecost has been derived from the Greek "pentekoste" meaning the "50th". The Shavuot festival was celebrated on the 50th day after the Jewish Passover, a harvest festival or a thanksgiving day for the harvest's firstfruits during the month of Sivan (May/June). The churches of Christendom continued to adhere to that timeline.
In various regions of the world the festival of Pentecost has been combined with pagan customs of old. In Germany, for instance, the Pentecostal day is marked by attaching fresh birch twigs to house doors, by horse-riding reserved for this day, or in the Alpine region, by driving the cattle to summer pastures up in the mountains. Many people utilize "Whitsun" as an opportunity to make short trips to visit family and friends and to exchange greeting cards.
Text: Günter Garbrecht 2001, amended 2010
Translation: Marcel Valtr, 2011