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Why isn’t Pentecost Monday a public holiday in Italy?

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Why isn’t Pentecost Monday a public holiday in Italy?
St. Peter's Basilica pictured from the Pineta Sacchetti park in Rome in May 2020. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Italy is known for being a particularly religious country, so why isn't Pentecost Monday a public holiday here?

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May 20th will mark Pentecost Monday (or Lunedì di Pentecoste in Italian) – an important observance in the Christian calendar which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’s disciples.

Pentecost Monday is a movable feast (or festa mobile) in the Christian liturgical calendar, meaning that its date changes each year depending on when Easter is celebrated: Pentecost – which marks the exact day the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples – falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter, with Pentecost Monday following right after.

But while Pentecost Monday (also known as Whit Monday elsewhere) is a public holiday and therefore a non-working day in a number of European countries, including Austria, Germany, France, Spain and Switzerland, Italy – a country known for being overwhelmingly Catholic – doesn’t consider the date a festa nazionale.

But why is that so?

Pentecost Monday was long a public holiday in Italy. In fact, the Tuesday following Pentecost Sunday was also a national holiday up until the late 18th century. 

But in 1977 the Italian government then led by Giulio Andreotti removed Pentecost Monday along with four other Catholic-related feasts (these included St Joseph’s Day on March 19th and the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th) from its list of public holidays. 

The official reason behind the change was to speed up public administration work and increase businesses’ productivity as the Italian calendar had featured nearly 20 different national holidays up to that point.

It could be argued however that a nationwide shift towards secularism in the second half of the 20th century also played a non-negligible role in the change.

That said, a number of political parties and Catholic associations have asked for the holiday to be restored over the years, with a proposal backed by the League party and centre-left Democrazia Solidale making it all the way to parliament in 2016 but being ultimately scrapped. 

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Pentecost Monday isn't the only important date on the Christian calendar not marked with a public holiday in Italy. 

READ ALSO: How to make the most of Italy's public holidays in 2024

Good Friday may be a holiday elsewhere in Europe, but not in Italy, where it's seen as a day of mourning. Ascension Day, which marks the day Jesus ascended into heaven and falls on the sixth Thursday after Easter every year, is also not a public holiday in the country.

Curiously, while Pentecost Monday is not a public holiday on the Italian calendar, there is one area of the country where the observance does grant residents a day off: South Tyrol (or Alto Adige), in northern Italy.

South Tyrol, which includes the city of Bolzano, is an autonomous Italian province, meaning that local authorities have the freedom to decide on a number of economic, political and civil matters, including the local holiday calendar. 

If you’re one of South Tyrol’s 530,000 residents, you will enjoy a three-day weekend this week.

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