May note from Dri: A Trinity of Holidays

Three of the four Sundays of May are special dates in the Christian Liturgical Calendar: Ascension Sunday, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday! You could even call them a Trinity of Holidays.

Ascension Sunday

Ascension Sunday is the day we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven after his death and resurrection. This story is recorded in Mark 16:19-20, Luke 24:50-53, and Acts 1:6-11. While the story is not in the earliest manuscripts of Mark, it’s certainly recorded in the Luke-Acts, the two volume work by the investigator and physician, Luke, a companion of Paul. This day marks the completion of Jesus’ redemptive work. It’s the culmination of Christmas, where God debases himself by descending to earth and taking on human flesh, and then glorifies human flesh by ascending in it into heaven. It all comes full circle here.

According to Danielle Hitchen in her book Sacred Seasons: A Family Guide to Center Your Year Around Jesus, there are several fun ways to celebrate as a family:

  • Take a hike up to a hilltop to commemorate Jesus leading his disciples out to Bethany and the Mount of Olives before he ascended.
  • Have a picnic at the top of the hill. Hitchen says, “In the Middle Ages, it was customary to eat birds on Ascension Day because Jesus ‘flew’ into heaven (it’s a tenuous link, to be sure.)” So she recommends chicken salad or bird shaped pastries.
  • Get a helium balloon and draw a picture of Jesus or write a prayer, then release it. Be sure to use biodegradable balloons and remove any strings before the release in order to avoid littering, as that would be antithetical to the creation-care point of the Feast of Ascension.
  • For other ways to visualize the release effect: blow bubbles, fly kites, or release butterflies.


Pentecost is the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, recorded in Acts 2. It’s the reversal of the Tower of Babel, where instead of confusing their language, God enables them to understand one another so that the good news of Jesus could be spread throughout the world. The first Pentecost happened to fall on the Jewish holiday of the same name, which was 50 days after passover. That’s why there were such a huge number of people in Jerusalem where Peter and other disciples were staying, making it possible to share this good news with so many who would then go back home and share it with their friends and family.

Here are some ways that we can celebrate with our families:

  • On Pentecost Sunday, you’ll notice that we have huge red banners hung from the balcony to the choir loft to remind us of the spirit coming down. Be sure to point them out to your kids and ask them why they’re there.
  • Red is the color of this special day, to remind us of the tongues of fire. Consider wearing red to church.
  • Grab a bunch of roses for your table center at home because the blooms look like tongues of flames. You can even scatter the petals outside.
  • Celebrate the birthday of the church with a birthday cake. You can even have a whole birthday party!
  • Grab donuts for breakfast, as the regular ones are “hole-y” and the jelly ones are “filled – with the Holy Spirit.”

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost and is the Sunday we celebrate the Three-In-One God that we worship. It kicks off the “Ordinary Time” where we respond to the holidays that have come before, from Advent to Pentecost, by living them out faithfully. Hitchen says, “It’s a season that acknowledges and dignifies the growth that comes from everyday faithfulness.”

How can we observe Trinity Sunday? Here are some ideas:

  • Three of the red banners from Pentecost will be left in the sanctuary to remind us of the Trinity. Point them out to your children and ask them if they can guess why there are only three now.
  • Host a Trini-Tea Party by serving three-ingredient sandwiches, or a three tiered cake.
  • Include the trinity in your prayers: “to the father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit.”
  • Read the Athanasian Creed. It’s a bit longer, but explains the Trinitarian theology the best of all the various creeds.
  • Have a Trinity Sundae with Neapolitan ice cream, or make a Neapolitan cake.
  • Take a walk and look for three-leaf clovers.