Many thanks to Vox and her wonderful site FishEaters.com for the excellent information on the history of Pentecost that I include (in a shortened form) here. If you want a far more exhaustive article, please visit the original. Vox has an amazing amount of material available on her site.
The Vigil of Pentecost is traditionally a day of fasting. This requirement has been done away with in the most recent Code of Canon Law, but many traditional Catholics fast anyway. The Feast itself — a day also known as “Whitsunday” — marks the beginning of the week known as Whitsuntide. Vestments on Whitsunday are red, but the name “Whitsunday” comes from “White Sunday” because, at one time, those who entered the Church at Easter would once again wear their white robes today.
Pentecost is the second greatest Feast of the liturgical year — the first being Easter — and takes place 50 days (7 weeks) after Easter (the earliest possible date for this Feast is 10 May). This day celebrates the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples and Our Lady and, in a sense, the reversal of the story of the Tower of Babel in that the the Apostles were given the gift of tongues by which they could preach and be understood by anyone in any language — a demonstration of the Church’s true catholicity.
When Jesus walked out of His Tomb and before He ascended into Heaven on the 40th day, He promised the coming of the Comforter:
And eating together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth. For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence (Acts 1: 4-5).
As they waited for this promise of the Father to come true, Mary and the disciples prayed a novena of prayers, and then the Comforter came on the 50th day, overwhelming Our Lady and the Apostles:
And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak (Acts 2: 1-4).
Customs in Our Home
The Dove — the form the Holy Ghost took at Christ’s Baptism — is the primary symbol of the day. In medieval times, there even used to be “Holy Ghost Holes” in the roofs of some churches from which a dove — real or a model — would be lowered over the congregation as trumpets sounded or the choir mimicked the sounds of rustling winds. When the dove descended, red rose petals or, incredibly, pieces of burning straw symbolizing the “tongues of flame” in Acts would shower down.
I don’t suggest such a hazardous practice today. But, the feast a prime opportunity for a fun craft: dove cookies iced in white. Any simply sugar cookie recipe will do. Simply ice and decorate accordingly. Small candles on the table might act as a reminder of the Holy Ghost. A white table cloth showered with red roses would do the same. Columbines (whose name is derived from the Latin “columba” or dove) are a traditional flower of this octave and might grace your table.
These beautiful dove cookies are amazing! You could easily change the yellow dots to red and have something stunning for your Pentecost dinner! The original blog has a recipe and more photos to feast your eyes on!
We like to explore the three Theological Virtues and seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost with the children. They love to make cards for friends offering their prayers on this special feast.
On this day, as on 1 January, a plenary indulgence can be acquired, under the usual conditions, by reciting the “Veni, Creator Spiritus” (Come, Holy Spirit), which is prayed during the liturgy today.