Austrian traditions of Pentecost
Holiday. Pentecost (Pfingsten in Austria, Whit Sunday and Monday)
When? The fiftieth day after Easter, on May 31st in 2020.
Where? Austria, parts of Europe.
The meaning. Pentecost is an important Christian holiday. Believers celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ. According to the New Testament, it happened when they got together on the Jewish holiday Shavuot in Jerusalem: "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance"(Acts, chapter 2). People who speak foreign languages and understand each other constitute the image of the missionary Church, which connects all people in spite of their nationalities. At the same time, Pentecost means the end of Easter.
The name comes from the Roman word "Pentecostes", which means "the 50th day".
Today Whit Monday is a public holiday in many countries (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Hungary etc.).
How it is celebrated. Pentecost was originally a harvest festival, a thanksgiving day for a good harvest of what was planted between Easter and Pentecost. Old traditions were combined with the new religious meaning. People decorate churches and houses with flowers and green branches, wear new beautiful clothes. As a rule, after the mass they eat the delicious Pentecost bread, go to picnics and sing folk songs.
Pentecost is a summer festival with similar games and rituals of those popular on May Day. Different folk games were typical for this holiday, such as games with rings, sticks, the “rider game”.
In Europe, there was a tradition to dress up as a “Laubmännchen“ (a Green Boy). Children or young people were wrapped with flowers or green garlands so that the whole body was green. Then they went in a solemn procession from house to house with music, free beer and delicious dishes. This ritual is still preserved in some Austrian villages today.
Family traditions. Eva Staudinger lives with her husband in Klagenfurt and works at the Waldorf Kindergarten in Villach. "It's so important to convey our traditions to our children," she says.
In the Waldorf Kindergarten children learn the Austrian traditions. "On Pentecost we bake with the children the delicious Pentecost bread and make a big flower together," says Eva. "Then we make a dove of paper, because it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. We decorate the table nicely with a red tablecloth, birch green and pink (the colors of Pentecost). On the wreath of birch twigs, we hang the doves and put a candle for each child. Then we tell an appropriate story or fairy tale".
Once a year, Eva invites all children with their families to her home and organizes a festival in the garden. Girls and boys play folk games and sing folk songs. "Today some old traditions are gone. Others are not quite forgotten. Perhaps tomorrow children will discover them again", Eva thinks.
Eva Staudinger tells about Austrian traditions of Pentecost.
Folk games at Waldorf Kindergarten in Villach.
Text and photos: Vita Vitrenko