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Pentecost

Pentecost 2018 and 2019

Pentecost is a public holiday in 25 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, the canton of Vallais observing Corpus Christi Day instead.

YearDateDayHolidayCantons
201820 MaySunWhit SundayNational
21 MayMonWhit MondayNational except VS
20199 JunSunWhit SundayNational
10 JunMonWhit MondayNational except VS
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Both Pentecost Sunday and the following day, Pentecost Monday, are celebrated in Switzerland, creating a three-day weekend. In Switzerland, Pentecost is known as Pfingsten in German-speaking areas and as Pentecote in French-speaking regions. Pentecost Monday is called “Pfingstmontag” in German and “Lundi de Pentecote” in French.

Pentecost comes 50 days after Easter, and thus, its date varies with that of Easter Sunday. It will fall sometime from mid-May to early June. In Switzerland, many businesses close down during at least part of Pentecost Weekend.

Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit from the ascended Christ to his disciples gathered in Jerusalem, and ultimately, to the entirety of the Church he established. After promising to give the Spirit at his Ascension, he had his disciples wait 10 days in Jerusalem until the Jewish Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) to send the Spirit to empower them for the ministry of the Church.

In many churches across Switzerland, special Pentecost services will be held. Traditionally, this is a time for baptisms, since 2,000 converts were baptised in Jerusalem at the events Pentecost Sunday commemorates. Since the Apostles were heard in numerous languages, the message being mysteriously “translated” to each hearer by the Holy Spirit, an emphasis on spreading God’s message across linguistic, ethnic, and cultural barriers is common.

To many, Pentecost Weekend is a chance to relax at home with family and friends, to go picnicking, or to go on short vacations.

Things to do in Switzerland on or around Pentecost include:

  • Visit famous churches of Switzerland and attend Pentecost services there. In Lausanne, there is Notre-Dame Cathedral, set in the midst of the Medieval “Old Town” and not far from beautiful Lake Geneva. In Fribourg, look for the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, where you can ascend 368 steps for a panoramic view of the town.
  • Go for a guided tour of The Benedictine Monastery, which dates form A.D. 1120, in the town of Engelberg. You will see the largest church organ in the land, and the Valley Museum and Collegiate Library are both worthwhile to explore.
  • In the village of Mogno, visit the “Mountain Church” of famed architect Mario Botta. The building is built of marble and granite that is formed into black-and-white stripes, making it look a little like a zebra. It is elliptically shaped with a slanted roof and looks like a checkerboard on the inside. There are no windows, but light enters through the glass roof. It is truly a remarkable church building and is a popular tourist stop.
  • See the horse races in Frauenfeld held every Pentecost Monday. The event is popular enough to be crowded, but exciting enough to make crowd-fighting worth it. There are other races held at the same time in French towns just across the border.
  • The Zurich Festival, a multifaceted display of local culture and art, begins on June 3rd, right around Pentecost some years, and runs for three weeks. There are over 100 events and usually over 80,000 people attending them.

Pentecost is still a religious holiday in Switzerland, and while there are not many official events outside the church doors, there is still plenty to do.