Today is pentecost Monday, Whitsun Monday or Pfingst-Montag (in German). I usually have little emotional relation to Christian feast. In Germany, the highly celebrated Christmas and Eastern turned more and more into commercially important events. And for an atheist like me, this makes them even more suspicious than any low-key christian feast. So I equally well celebrate jewish holidays (like Purim, Rosh-Ashanah, Chanukka), Persian Novrouz or the Soviet Defeat over Fascist Germany.

But the christian Pentecost is an exception here. First of all, among a group of Leipzig University students in East German times we kept the tradition of using the 3 free days of the Pentecost weekend late in May for a nice bicycle ride in the countryside, sleeping either in tents we carried with us or in remote youth hostels or in barns or churches. It were usually unforgetable days of freedom and inspiration and pleasure, with red wine and chees and guitar music. This was in the early 80s, and among the 8 -10 students of us, we always had a few foreigners, students from Angola, Mosambique, Jordan or Nicaragua. There was no difference between us, they tought us their songs to play, and we explained them the secrets of how to take a bike on a train ride without paying an extra fare.

I remember that Pentecost weekends were always warm and sunny. Understanding between different nations was simply not an issue at all.  I don’t remember in which language we communicated, but I assume that the foreign students spoke German well enough, perhaps even with a Saxon accent.

This year, however, Pentecost fell exactly on the three or four days in late May which are traditionally called “The chilly saints”, because they always coincide with chilly and rainy weather. So this years Pentecost was simply unsuitable for any bike ride. It was nice, I guess, for our garden and the many plants which enjoy the rain.

The more I acknowledged the original Christian meaning of Pentecost, which had to do with the advent of the holy spirit that brought all nations in the world a common language. So suddenly they could understand each other (and – according to christian theology – praise to and follow the same God).

In fact, I never really understoud what this common language was. The most horrible conflicts and wars were all between European nations, who followed the same christian God but who spoke different languages. I therefore believe that common usage of the English language, mainly propelled by popular music and by the internet globalisation, was the first real advent of a language that managed to give people all over the world the possibility to understand each other.

So nearly 2000 years after it was announced in the new testament, we have now indeed a common language, and maybe even the arrival of a spirit of common wisdom.

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