Easter and all that Index Home

Because of our country's (and our continent's) Christian heritage, we have ended up with a pattern to the year that reflects the cycle of Christian festivals.  Years ago public holidays might also include Saints' days.  They would vary from town to town, depending on who the preferred local saint happened to be.  They would be the excuse for holding a fair, and people would come from miles around to join in the fun.

 Nowadays what we are left with (though the Saints' days are still there!) is holidays centred on the major festivals of Christmas and Easter. It all works out rather well. Christmas comes in the depths of winter, just when lots of us need cheering up. Many a schoolchild is sustained through the long Autumn Term by thoughts of what Santa has in store. Many a parent is driven to distraction by them talking about it! But on the whole having Christmas where it is is a good thing.  It's an invented festival, dating from the fourth century - no one actually knows the date on which Jesus was born. The church authorities hijacked an older Roman pagan festival and gently nudged the population into having a big celebration at the same time – but for a different reason.

 Easter is different.  The Bible tells us that Jesus went with his disciples to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover.  This in turn commemorated the ancient goodness of God to his people when they were in exile in Egypt .  Moses led them back to their own land, but not after a series of confrontations with the King, or Pharaoh.  The last of these led to the death of the firstborn child in every household in the land – except those marked as belonging to the faithful Jews.  Those were “passed over”.

 Easter is different because it has long been celebrated on a Sunday at or near Passover, and the date of Passover is fixed.  Fixed?  But Easter varies from year to year, I hear you say!  Yes, Passover is fixed, but according to the lunar calendar, so you’ll always find Easter on (wait for it) the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.  The Equinox is the date (March 21) when in the northern hemisphere night and day have equal lengths and we perhaps begin to feel that Spring is on the way. 

 I think it’s fitting that the celebration of the time when God once again intervened to save his people is linked to the first Passover.  I think it’s good to see the turning of the world’s fortunes celebrated as the seasons are turning and (in our part of the world at least) the daylight is getting longer and stronger day by day.  And I think it’s a blessing that in our holidays round Easter time we all have a chance once more to take time off. 

 So, whether you are going to use that time to relax with the family, to begin this year’s DIY or to join with Christians round the world in thanking God for the gift and the sacrifice of Jesus…. Happy Easter.


(c) Copyright Bill Young 2004