Today is Monday of the Holy Spirit, Agios Pnevmatos, and a national holiday in Greece, which is the day after Pentecost, fifty days after Greek Orthodox Easter.
In Greek Orthodox churches, it is a three-day religious celebration, with many festivities, as it is a joyous occasion and also referred to by many as the second Easter.
In the biblical story, 50 days after the resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and the church in Jerusalem. This happened on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, a celebration of the delivery of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.
As the apostles were among this crowd, the gospel accounts relate that the Holy Spirit descended upon them in the form of tongues of fire, enabling them to preach to the assembled crowds, addressing each in a language he or she could understand.
The word Pentecost comes from the Greek word “pentekostos” which means the fiftieth day. It is considered the birthday of the Christian church for two reasons. First, the descent of the Holy Spirit completed the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the basis of Christian theology. Second, it was the first time the Apostles had begun to spread their faith to the masses.
The Pentecost festivities begin on the Friday or Saturday before the day itself. Sunday is also known as Trinity Sunday. Public celebrations, which tend to be local and church-related – local fairs, for example, take place on Saturdays. The largest churches in towns, villages and islands hold services and the town centers hold the biggest and most colorful festivals.
Today, the Monday after Pentecost, known as Agiou Pneumatos, is also a public holiday in Greece and schools and businesses are closed, but shops, restaurants and cafes are open and normally crowded.