Whitsuntide

Carpe Diem: A reason to celebrate


| May/June 2002


Christians mark the seventh Sunday after Easter as Pentecost, in remembrance of how Jesus’ apostles reaffirmed their faith after encountering the Holy Spirit. In northern Europe it is also observed as Whitsuntide, a salute to spring in which white is the theme of the day in apparel, bouquets, and food. In southern Spain, warm weather is taken for granted but fresh water is not, so celebrants make pilgrimages—called romerias—to rivers and springs to honor the Virgin Mary. The roots of this tradition, which includes elaborate picnics, go back to festivals honoring pagan goddesses like Artemis and Diana. For young men and women it was traditionally a chance to slip away from rigid sexual supervision to frolic in the fields. Elisabeth Luard in her new book, Sacred Food (Chicago Review Press, $35), proposes that you plan your own romeria with a lunch of homemade paella in the fresh spring air. And then frolic in your own fashion.