What do we celebrate on Whit Monday?

Monday 1 June is Whit Monday, a festival that is not celebrated in the same way throughout Catalonia. As each local authority can chose, some make it a public holiday but others don’t. Despite that, it is a religious festival with deep roots and lots of names in Catalan: Cinquagesma, Pasqua de Pentecosta, Pentecostès, Segona Pasqua, Pasqua Granada, Pasqüetes, etc.

It falls on the 50th day after Resurrection Sunday, hence the words Pentecostès, of Greek origin, and Cinquagesma, which has Latin roots. In both cases the translation is ‘the 50th day’. The other Catalan names come from the comparison with “Pasqua Florida”, Easter, which is regarded as the main festival. That’s why this one is also referred to as the “Segona Pasqua”, “Pasqüetes” or “Pasqua Granada”.

At root it is clearly a religious festival and commemorates the descent of the Holy Ghost to the apostles. According to the Holy Scriptures, 50 days after Christ’s resurrection, the Holy Ghost appeared before the most loyal disciples and entrusted them with the task of evangelism. From then on the apostles began to roam the world to spread the Christian faith, so the Holy Ghost equipped them with the speaking of many tongues, known as glossolalia.

However, it is believed that this celebration is older than that and was originally based on an agrarian festival that gave thanks for the harvest. Subsequently the Jews turned it into the Shavuot festival, which literally means the ‘Festival of Weeks’. They still celebrate it, to recall the 50th day after God’s appearance on Mount Sinai and celebrate the giving of the Law to the people of Israel.

In our country’s festival calendar, Whit Monday is a festival with deep roots and lots of religious gatherings. For sure the good weather has something to do with the French gathering at Sant Aniol d’Aguja, the Prats de Molló choir and the “xato” festival in Rubí. This is also the time of Sant Feliu de Pallerols’s annual festival, or “festa major”, which is famous for the wealth of festival figures that take part and which is popularly known as “mata-degolla”, thanks to the dance of the Turks and “cavallets”.

Finally, Barcelona still maintains the ‘silent choirs’ festival, a really strange tradition where choirs that no longer sing take part in the musical parade known as a “cercavila”. More than anywhere else it is celebrated in Barceloneta, where the participants take to the streets dressed in striking clothes, necklaces and hats, carrying ridiculously large oars, axes and forks.