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Orthodox Pentecost

Orthodox Pentecost 2018 and 2019

Orthodox Pentecost is celebrated in Greece seven weeks and a day (50 days) following Easter.

201827 MaySunOrthodox Whit Sunday
28 MayMonOrthodox Whit Monday
201916 JunSunOrthodox Whit Sunday
17 JunMonOrthodox Whit Monday
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This puts Orthodox Pentecost in late May to mid-June in Greece, and the feast lasts for three days, Sunday through Tuesday.

Pentecost, also called “Whitsunday” in many other Christian denominations, corresponds to Jewish feast of Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks). In Greece, Pentecost is one of the “Great Christian Feasts” of the year, being second in importance only to Pascha (Good Friday). It is celebrated with much fanfare, such that it seems to many almost like “a second Easter.” According to the Bible, Pentecost marks the day on which the Holy Spirit descended on the members of the Church of Jerusalem, including the Apostles, and led to their speaking in other languages to Jews of many lands gathered in Jerusalem to worship. Thousands converted and were baptised, and the Church of Christ continued to grow and expand from that point on.

In Greek Orthodox doctrine, Pentecost was the fulfilment of Jesus’ mission on Earth and the beginning of the “Messianic Age of God’s Kingdom.” It is considered the birthday of the Church, but the Church is thought of as the place where Jesus is “mystically present” and reigning over the earth. Pentecost marks to the Orthodox believer the coming of the Spirit, the full revelation of the Trinity, and a day to celebrate membership in God’s family. Fasting is forbidden during this time, even the usual weekly fasts on Wednesday and Friday, because it is a time of great joy.

On “Pentecost Eve,” an all-night vigil is often held in churches. Special liturgies are read and relevant hymns sung. Ministers wear green attire and carry flowers or leafy branches in hand, while the church building itself is also decked out with flowers and greenery. There are also other church services during the three-day feast.

Three activities you might wish to partake of should you visit Greece around Pentecost are:

  • Attend services at a Greek Orthodox Church. The larger churches will usually have the fullest celebrations, and in Athens, you might especially wish to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation. The cathedral is built of marble salvaged from 72 former churches, has a gigantic wall, a dome, three aisles inside, and is presided over by the Archbishop of the whole Greek Church. Inside, you can see the tombs of two martyrs killed by the Ottoman invaders. Outside in the court, there is a statue of the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI, and of Damaskinos, the Greek Archbishop during World War II.
  • Visit Rhodes, one of the biggest Greek islands and one of the most popular tourist attractions on the planet. You can see ruins of ancient Rhodes, but the main draw is the “Old Town” that dates from the Middle Ages, when crusaders called “the Knights of St. John” lived in the city. There is also a museum housed in an old Turkish prison called “the Palace of the Grand Masters.”
  • When Pentecost is in mid-June or if you stay for a time after the holiday, you can attend European Music Day, the biggest music event in all of Greece. Around June 20th, it is a three-day celebration in Athens with free concerts and music genres of all kinds.

Note that transportation schedules in Greece change during Pentecost and extra ferry rides become available to carry the numerous Pentecost tourists. You will definitely want to book your flight early as well to beat the crowds.