Today on Whit Monday in years past children would have been off on their Whitsun treat. Intrigued to see how others spent their childhood treat I ‘Googled’ and was surprised to find just the one image (above) taken in Cardiff, South Wales, in the1930s. Asking my wife about her memories she told me that she used to go off to the seaside in a charabanc. How posh! I went on the back of a lorry to a hired field although, if I remember correctly, in later years a double-decker bus was used but the venue was always the same.
Such simple pleasures, paddling at the seaside or in a brook followed by a picnic tea, probably with a blob of ice cream from a big tub as a special treat. No paddling for us but healthy, organised sports and games. Thinking back the adults must have had a busy time planning and organising Whitsun treats. The weather was always unpredictable with Whitsun being a movable feast so a marquee was provided. Responding to the calls of nature with men, women and children of both sexes present required at least four suitably enclosed pits that had to be dug – and sorted out afterwards. Also as part of the setting up, the games had to be planned and the sporting events organised requiring the course to be marked out and starters, judges, marshals, etc, assembled. Last but not least the food had to be provided with mothers volunteering to make cakes and prepare sandwiches. Drinks were provided along with a packet of Smith’s potato crisps, with salt in a twist of blue paper – add your own or leave it, what a good idea!
Today it is different. Children are in school - unless of course it’s another day off for teacher training which for some reason can’t take place during their long summer holidays. Few will be aware of Whitsun or the feast of Pentecost let alone the descent of the Holy Spirit unless it is mentioned in passing during inter-faith studies. But not everything is lost. They will still have their day off for the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May when, as one site puts it “For many people the spring bank holiday is a pleasant day off work or school. Some people choose to take a short trip or vacation. Others use the time to walk in the country, catch up with family and friends, visit garden centres or do home maintenance.”
What could be better than that, sat in the traffic in a hot car or sat on a square of concrete eating a greasy barbecued meal without having to bother with anyone and no community spirit?
Veni, creator Spiritus!