Northern Germany, and by extension Hamburg, is somewhat poor in public holidays compared to the predominantly Catholic South. This is less apparent in spring, when Easter, 1 May and Ascension Day all follow each other in quick succession. Last in this line of spring holidays is Pentecost, which ends each year’s employee-friendly season of long weekends with (ideally) a lot of sunshine.
Pfingsten, as it is called in Germany, brings with it an extra-long weekend with the addition of Pfingstmontag (Whit Monday). While Germans are certainly glad to accept an extra free day in spring, few celebrate the religious holiday. What’s more, many people in Hamburg aren’t quite sure why they are blessed with this short holiday in the first place.
As it turns out, Pentecost and Whit Monday are part of the weeks-long traditional Easter celebrations. Taking place exactly 50 days after Easter Sunday, for religious Christians, Pentecost celebrates the appearance of the Holy Spirit before the Apostles, while Whit Monday marks the end of the Easter period. Like so many Christian holidays, however, Pentecost originally drew from pre-Christian traditions. In this case, the holiday’s origins lie in the Jewish holidays of Shavout, while the name is derived from the Greek term pentekoste, meaning 50.
The Great Outdoors
In modern-day Hamburg, only the most devout Christians observe Pentecost. It’s safe to say that most people today are just happy to spend an extra day outdoors. Summer comes late in the comparably cold North of Germany, but Pentecost in May usually has a good chance to coincide with sunshine and warm temperatures. With a lack of widespread cultural rituals in Hamburg, people spend this time as they please: going for a walk in the city’s parks, cycling or paddling on the Alster tributaries, swimming in lakes or pools, and visiting Hamburg’s beer gardens, street cafes and beach clubs. Of course, many city dwellers also take the opportunity and get out of the city for a day by heading for the North or Baltic Seas.
Pentecost takes place on 19-20 May, 2024.