ver.: 25 May 2004
The word 'Pentecost' comes from the Greek; it simply means 'fiftieth'. Pentecost Sunday ends the season of Easter; it is the sabbath day after a week's worth of weeks (7 x 7 = 49).
Pentecost grew from what was originally a festival marking the first grain harvest of the Middle Eastern year, marked by a sacrifice to the gods from the first part of that first harvest. In very ancient Palestine, this first-fruit sacrifice was tightly tied into the religions of the gods of power and fertility (both in farming and in sex). As the Jews grew to understand themselves as followers of the one and only true God, they created ways to be thankful to God for the first harvest, without the pagan trappings. The celebration became a mini-pilgrimage, or chag, where they would stay at their region's shrine, bringing with them grain loaves and young livestock for sacrifices. As the Jewish kings started to centralize religious activity into Jerusalem (a process that took several centuries), this