Pentecost: Wear red, salute a booming Christian movement

Pentecost icon in Greek Orthodox style. If you look closely, you can see the red flames above the golden halos, a symbol of the Pentecost Spirit descending.SUNDAY, MAY 27: Two billion Chrisians around the world mark Pentecost each year, although church calendars can vary between East and West. (This year, Eastern Christians celebrate on June 3.)

For more than 100 million Christians who consider themselves part of the loosely affiliated Pentecostal movement, Pentecost is more than the “birthday of the Christian church.” For these newer Pentecostal churches, this ancient feast day 50 days after Easter has special meaning. In the second chapter of the book of Acts, the Bible describes how Christian leaders 2,000 years ago received fresh inspiration from the Holy Spirit and began speaking spontaneously in many languages on the first Pentecost. However, the modern Pentecostal movement with its distinctive revival of “speaking in tongues” among other spiritual manifestations is only a little over a century old. The explosive growth of Pentecostal churches around the world proves the inspirational power of that modern approach to ancient ideas.

Typically, American congregations turn red! Because of the flame-like descent of the spirit 2,000 years ago, red has become the liturgical color of Pentecost. Altar areas often are decked out in red, clergy wear red—and many congregations encourage parishioners to show some red as they dress for church.


For many centuries, cultures around the world have made special adaptations to the Pentecost celebration. In northern Europe, bringing fresh green branches into churches is a longstanding tradition. Birch branches with fresh sprouts are especially popular.

Another way to celebrate Pentecost is to celebrate the world’s diversity in peaceful ways. Peace activist, poet and author Ken Sehested captures that theme in his poem Pentecostal Passion, which Ken has given permission for ReadTheSpirit to share with readers in preparation for Pentecost 2012.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email