Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Whit branches, 2022

Posted on by royvickery |

It is said that St John the Baptist church, in Frome, Somerset, is the only place in Britain which maintains the once widespread custom of decorating with birch, Betula pendula, branches for Pentecost (formerly more usually known as Whitsun).

However, when the church was visited on Saturday 4 June 2022 people were busy decorating with beech, Fagus sylvatica, branches rather than birch.  According to a notice displayed outside and at the entrance to the church ‘It is our custom to decorate St John’s with young branches from Longleat Forest to celebrate the feast of Pentecost’.

No explanation is given for this custom, but the preacher on Sunday morning suggested that as Pentecost was the birthday of the Church, young branches were brought in to celebrate the young church.

Upper image: church being decorated, Saturday 4 June; lower, 9.45 a.m.  Holy Communion service ‘Pentecost – Platinum Jubilee’, Sunday 5 June 2022.

Comment from Amanda Crook, St John’s Parish Administrator, 4 July 2022:  ‘Longleat very kindly allow us to collect the branches and they usually send  someone with us to specify exactly which ones to take.  This year there was no one available to direct our collection team (it was Jubilee Weekend) so the team had to fend for themselves and they chose the brightest green branches – beech. So it’s as simple as that. (There have been previous years when we’ve had a bit of a mix, to be honest).’


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