Friday Report: Power to the Peeps
April 22, 2011
Easter’s date is tough to calculate. As confusing as it seems, it’s designed to pinpoint that specific Sunday when the sun and moon are in the same position as that day in 30 A.D. when Christ rose from the dead. Like so many Christian holidays, Easter supplanted a pagan spring fertility rite.
We recently experienced the spring equinox. As the earth orbits the sun, the word “equinox” describes the two days out of the year when the equator points at the sun and the duration of night and day are equal. The spring equinox was notice to farmers to plant, and a promise that the autumnal equinox was six months away with its onset of shorter days and colder nights.
The spring equinox is the pivotal point in the calculation of the date of Easter, the most important day of the Christian calendar. The Julian Calendar was developed by Julius Caesar and followed for almost 1,600 years. Based upon that calendar, Easter was observed on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on, or following, the spring equinox (March 20 or 21). That is, unless the full moon is on a Sunday, at which point Easter is celebrated the following Sunday.
It can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25. For western Christians, it’s been that way since 325 A.D. when the Emperor of Rome, Constantine, ordered the Council of Nicea to play nice, quit bickering, show a unified front, and, by the way, here’s how we will all calculate Easter.
After the Council, things remained calm for 12 centuries, but the Julian calendar contained several small errors that accumulated over time and the equinoxes were occurring several days before their allotted date. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII (for whom our modern Gregorian calendar is named), made some changes, adding days and removing some leap years. This upset the Jews because the changes Gregory made allowed Easter to fall before Passover, a contradiction that was unacceptable to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Still, today eastern Christians cling to the original Julian calculation, which leads to differences sometimes as great as a month between the eastern and western celebration of Easter. See, you just thought it was confusing.
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Why else is the equinox important? Many think it’s the only day of the year that you can balance a fresh egg on its end. Right now as we read, there are some local news stations out there filming grade-schoolers trying to balance eggs. The sun is directly overhead, with every ounce of its gravitational pull straining to help you stand up that egg. Of course, it can’t be done.
Or can it? Actually, egg balancing is easily done if you know a tiny secret. Sprinkle a layer of salt on the table and set the egg down on it. It will sit upright easily. Gently blow away all the salt not involved in holding up the egg and call in all your gullible friends. Anyone can do this, any day of the year.
May all your rabbits be solid chocolate!