Movement underway to tether Easter to fixed date
Christmas 2015 is a recent memory. So let’s look ahead to the next big religious holiday, Easter.
Would it make any difference to you if Easter occurred on a fixed day? There’s a movement afoot to do just that, reports the Sydney, Australia, Herald.
The leaders of several Christian religions are working to come up with a common Sunday for Easter, rather than relying on the procedure for determining Easter we, but not some of the others, use now.
In case the way to determine Easter has escaped your memory (and it’s OK if it has), here’s the age-old formula we’ve used: Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox (first day of spring). The result is that date of Easter Sunday can vary by as much as a month from year to year.
There’s nothing wrong with that, except several Christians don’t follow it. (The ones who do include Catholics, Anglicans and other Protestant Churches.)
So a number of Christian leaders have agreed to try to find a common date. That word has come from one of them – Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is head of the Church of England.
Joining him are Pope Francis, Pope Tawadros II, who leads the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Recent impetus for finding a common date for Easter came last summer from Pope Francis.
He told a gathering of priests in Rome that “We have to come to an agreement,” joking that various Christian religions could say, “My Christ rose today, and yours next week.” Coptic Pope Tawadros II chimed in with his agreement. Roman Catholics represent a significant portion of the Christian religions that are part of the new effort.
In 325, Emperor Constantine asked some Catholic bishops to settle dissent within the church on a method of determining Easter Sunday and that’s how we came to the current formula. Churches have been trying for more than a millennium (since the 900s) to come up with a date all could agree to, but to no avail.
Most Christian churches use the Gregorian calendar to determine the date for Easter, but the Eastern Orthodox Church bases Easter on the older Julian calendar. Therein lies the confusion.
Let’s say that the leaders can all agree on a fixed date for Easter – when would it be? Likely days are the second or third Sunday of April.
In case you’re wondering, Easter will occur on March 27 this year. Next year it was be on April 16. In 2015, it was on April 5.
Any change would have fallout beyond the church areas. Schools would have to make adjustments to vacation calendars. Businesses would need to change sales promotion dates. That includes Easter bonnets, candy makers, florists and egg producers – even the lawn and garden sector.
The travel industry, including hotels and airlines, would have to modify their operations to accommodate the new date. In a few cases, governments would have to change legislation. Even the Easter Bunny would face disruption from his tried and true current schedule.
Most observers say if church leaders come to an agreement, it would take up to a decade to finalize it. Nobody expects a quick decision on something that hasn’t produced a positive result for almost 1,100 years.
Since Easter Sunday celebrates Christ’s resurrection, the foundation of Christian faith, one might wonder what God has to say about making the change. My guess is that the Almighty wouldn’t care since the current method of establishing Easter is arbitrary in the first place. The Vatican’s position is that it has no dogmatic objection to making a change. The Orthodox Church says it would agree if all Christian Churches did. The main things Christians must do is to commemorate and celebrate the holiest day in their religion.
A point of interest is that there’s a symbolic link between Easter and the Jewish Passover and in some languages, the words “Easter” and “Passover” are similar or even identical.
An obvious side note: the dates of Lent – the period of penance before Easter including Holy Week – would move to the 40 days before the big day.
I don’t have any particular feelings for keeping Easter where it now falls, or changing it to a date certain. I’d still get up early to go to church and probably repeat recent tradition at our house by going out to eat at an Easter brunch. That’s a change from my youth when we celebrated Easter with a big meal at home, which included several close relatives. The menu always featured ham and yams.
I wouldn’t worry about Easter bonnets, since almost nobody buys such hats anymore (maybe the Red Hat Society still does). I don’t usually watch the Easter Parade – in fact, I don’t even know if it’s still on TV. The White House would have to change the date for the annual Easter egg roll, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
So let’s watch what church leaders decide – it’s up to them to determine if a change is in order. Whatever the outcome, we’ll still have Easter Sunday one way or another.