Of all the really big questions being asked over the Easter holiday this year – like “How come Fireman Stevie won ‘The Voice’ and not flame haired Lucy who really can sing?” and “When will David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage finally realise that they were beaten hollow in the Leaders Debate by smarter and spin-doctor free Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett?” the one question that foxes us all is “Why was Easter so flipping early?”
The answer is to be found in ’Brewer’s Dictionary of Fact and Fable’ – the second best book in the world after ‘Diary of a Nobody’ by George and Weedon Grossmith. This is what Dr Ebenezer Cobham Brewer (1810-1897) has to say on the subject…
“Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, i.e the full moon that occurs on the day of the vernal equinox (21st March) or on any of the next 28 days. Thus Easter Sunday cannot be earlier than 22nd March, or later than 25th April, as laid down by the Council of Nicæa in 325. The Eastern Church still celebrates Easter independently and in 1963 the Vatican Council declared itself in favour of fixing the date of Easter when agreement with other churches could be reached.”
Unfortunately agreement with other churches has yet to be reached and so Easter, a truly ‘Movable Feast’, rambles from date to date. Those who understand what Dr Ebenezer Cobham Brewer means with his …“Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon etc etc…” will have already worked out that Easter 2016 will be even earlier than Easter 2015 with Good Friday falling on March 25th. You’ll certainly need thermal underwear if you want to keep your buns hot and cross!
And while we’re still in a state of post-Easter reverie here are some further Easter observations from Dr Brewer…
- The name comes from the heathen festival Eastre held at the vernal equinox in honour of the Teutonic goddess of dawn Eostre
- It was once believed that the sun danced on Easter Day..
“But oh, she dances such a way,
No sun upon an Easter day
Is half so fine a sight.”
- The custom of eating eggs on Easter Sunday and of making gifts of Easter Eggs to children probably derives from the payment of eggs by the villein (serf) to his overlord. The idea of the egg as a symbol of new life was adopted to symbolise the Resurrection.
- Easter-ale. It was once the custom to brew beer and sell it over the Easter festival to raise money for the church. The church authorities tried unsuccessfully to ban this practise in 1603 – but it did come to an end at the time of Oliver Cromwell.
For more information about Dr Ebenezer Cobham Brewer and his amazing book please check out this article in our archives
— from Martyn Day