There has been some discussion recently in the media about fixing the date of Easter with some saying it should be, and others saying it should follow the current “moving about”
Well, I’m probably in the camp of “It should be Fixed” but how?
but before I start, please remember that I am not a theologian and therefore do not have all the relevant “facts” (there’s plenty of different theories to read on Wikipedia) but there are a few simple pointers which indicate to me that we should remember Easter on a fixed time-frame as we do Christmas.
Firstly, the name Easter originates from a pagan goddess named Eostre and was celebration of the arrival of spring. Most non English speaking countries use a form of “Pascha” of Pesach (Hebrew) and fell usually in the month of April which was known as the “Paschal” month. This is due to Jesus being crucified just before the Passover. So I certainly would not object to a name “Correction”, but that is a separate issue, the important thing is that we remember that Christ died for us and rose from the dead. If you are a regular church attender then you will be doing this each time you participate in the Communion breaking of bread and the wine.
Secondly – Jesus was very probably, almost definitely NOT crucified on “Good Friday”. We have taken this day to be the day before the Sabbath as recorded in the Bible, but we forget that the Passover took place on a fixed date in the Jewish calendar; the 14th of Nissan, the first month of the Hebrew year. This means that the Passover would have moved days of the week as does Christmas. In addition it says in John’s account of the crucifixion that it was a “Special Sabbath” being the Passover, (John 19 v 31) not the usual Sabbath which commences on Friday evening through to sunset on Saturday. Historians looking back to the likely year of Jesus crucifixion have confirmed that the Passover that year would have commenced either on the Thursday (or possibly the Wednesday) meaning that Jesus was crucified on either of these two days with at least two days of Sabbath following, one the “special” and one the usual. This also explains people’s difficulty in accounting for Jesus rising again on the third day, being Sunday, the first day of the week. There would have been at least two, maybe three days of Sabbath before the women were able to go to the tomb, and people began moving about again.
So: should we have a “Fixed” day in our calendar, as we do Christmas? (which incidentally has the same issues in that it is a date chosen to replace the Winter festivals – Jesus was probably born around September time but that is a whole other debate)
In the UK we have two holidays, the Friday (which we call “Good Friday”) where we traditionally commemorate the Crucifixion. We Celebrate the resurrection on the Sunday with an additional holiday on the Monday, so should we therefore have two fixed date holidays about 3 days apart as we do with Christmas? or do what we do with other holidays and fix say “the last weekend in April” or something similar so it is at least around the same time.
Do we tie it in with the Passover celebrations? This year we have Easter Sunday on the 27th March but Passover does not commence until April 22nd, so personally I would have thought Easter should at least have been that weekend.
There are lots of arguments for and against fixing the date or leaving it movable, some relating to our academic year in that the school holiday timetables can get a bit complicated depending on when Easter falls, so I think it would be practical at least on that basis too to have it fixed. It can be awkward trying to check when it falls each year and as it varies so much we can be the height of Spring, or just crawling out of Winter (mind you in England it always rains on Bank holidays so would probably make no difference to people wanting to get the first gardening jobs done)
After saying all this though, the important thing is that we do take time out of our busy lives to remember what Christ did for us. Sadly in the UK as with Christmas, it has become more about Chocolate and bunnies and except for Easter Sunday, for many people a normal day, many churches even no longer have any form of service on “Good Friday” whereas I can remember the weekend was usually packed with special meetings. Shops and Supermarkets are open as usual – but HEY! Sunday is coming and we WILL rejoice in our Risen Savior who has given us new life through the shedding of His precious blood and His victory over death.