Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter, which means it’s May 19 in 2013 in Western Christianity (Eastern churches celebrate Easter and Pentecost on different dates). It commemorates the day that the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, when there were tongues of fire on their heads, and they were speaking in strange tongues with their mouths.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
Although Pentecost is typically thought of as a Christian holiday, it’s actually older than that. Pentecost was the Greek term for the Jewish celebration Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, held 50 days after Passover. However, the Jewish Pentecost is on Saturday, while Christians celebrate it on Sunday.
The Pentecost recorded in Acts 2 was the first Pentecost after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. When the apostles began to speak in tongues, the people were flabbergasted, and some decided that they must be drunk. Then Peter stood up and gave what is often called the first gospel sermon:
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”