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Easter Days and Dates
CONFUSING EASTER DATES
Several years ago, I had a call from someone working at the Industrial Commission asking me which day is ‘Easter Saturday’. When I explained that it is the Saturday after the Easter long weekend, the lady gasped and said ‘We’ve just submitted an application for penalty rates for workers for the wrong day!’
At the end of last year, the AFL announced with much fanfare that the first match of 2005 at the Gabba with the Brisbane Lions playing against St Kilda was to be held on Easter Thursday. I was pleasantly surprised that a football association was so in tune with the liturgical calendar, until I realised that they too had got it wrong! When I rang to book a seat for 31 March, I was told that there was no game on that day. I pointed out that a match was being advertised for Easter Thursday and that 31 March was Easter Thursday. The reply was ‘Well everyone knows which day we mean!’
The correct names of the days of the week before Easter are Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), Monday of Holy Week, Tuesday of Holy Week, Wednesday of Holy Week, Thursday of Holy Week, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. We don’t start using the word ‘Easter’ to describe liturgical days until we celebrate the commemoration of the resurrection, that is, until the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.
The days following Easter Sunday are called Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday and so on through to Easter Saturday, which is 6 days after Easter Sunday.
The Sundays of the Easter Season are named the Second Sunday of Easter, etc, not after Easter as in the past, because they fall with in the 50-day Season of Easter.
A priest rang me last week asking whether I could do something about the misuse of liturgical dates which seems to have become increasingly common.
If secular organisations are going to describe dates according to Christian feast days, at least they should check with somebody to make sure they get them right, but I am at a loss to know how to get the message across.
Speaking of confusion about Easter dates, most readers will be aware of the fact that the Eastern Orthodox Churches (Greek Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc) usually celebrate Easter at a different time from western Christians. The reason for this disparity lies in the different calendars the Churches use. After the split between the eastern and western Churches in 1054, the two continued to celebrate Easter on the same date because both followed the Julian calendar.
This calendar, devised by Julius Caesar in 46BCE, was inexact in calculating the length of the year. Gregory XIII omitted ten days from the year 1582 to bring the calendar back into line with the astronomical cycle. He also put in place our current leap year rule so that the error would not reoccur. The Gregorian calendar gradually replaced the Julian calendar but certain parts of the Orthodox Church have not adopted it.
While both East and West calculate the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the northern Spring equinox, the equinox occurs on a different date in the two calendars which are currently about fourteen days apart.
Hence for nearly 400 years the celebration of the resurrection has usually occurred on different dates for Christians of the East and West. This year the Orthodox Easter Sunday falls on 1st May when the western church is celebrating the 6th Sunday of Easter.