Let’s fix the Easter holidays so we can all enjoy a proper, restful break

Churches have been attempting since the 10th century to fix the date of the festival – surely 2018 is the time?

James Moore@JimMooreJourno
Saturday 31 March 2018 16:08
Five Easter traditions across Europe

Happy Easter!

This may be a religious holiday, but there’s an awful lot of be said for it from a secular perspective too.

There are four days off at the end of a long and (this year) cold winter. In a parsimonious nation, what’s not to like about that? You can go away, visit friends and loved ones, take the kids out, or you can just sit in front of Netflix with a beer.

If Christianity is your thing, you can go to church and observe your religion’s holiest festival without being surrounded by the orgy of commercialism that characterises Christmas, the religion’s other big deal. That stuff makes lots of us secular types uncomfortable too.

Personally, I’m going to spend some time working on my novel. Any agents or publishers reading this, tweet me. Tweet me now!

The only problem with this really rather wonderful invention is the fact that the date keeps on changing as a result of the vagaries of the lunar calendar. Easter officially falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox around 21 March; in other words, any time between 22 March and 25 April, a gap of more than 30 days.

That causes real problems in some spheres, especially the academic one.

While schools can limit the impact of Easter falling very early or very late by, for example, tweaking their holiday dates so the break either finishes with the four days of public holiday or starts with it, they’re still frequently faced with the problem of a ludicrously short half term at one end, and a horribly long one at the other.

Young children and teenagers alike are apt to get tired and cranky at the end of a long term. Their stressed out and exhausted teachers also typically end up resembling characters from 28 Days Later.

The uncertainty also affects universities and colleges, not to mention the sporting calendar, and an awful lot of seasonal industries.

There are strong arguments for addressing the problems caused by the holiday bouncing around like LeBron James’s basketball, and addressing the issue would probably command widespread support.

There are even provisions in law to allow for a fixed date. If parliament used these provisions, it wouldn’t stop the religious among us from celebrating. They might just have to burn a couple of days off their holiday allowance to do so. But this is now a multi-faith country and that’s what, say, Muslims have to do when it comes to Eid, the date of which is also linked to the lunar calendar.

Trouble is, if we were to do that, how long would it be before people started lobbying to cut the holiday to a more manageable three days? Politically tough, you might think, but if you lose the religious link you make it that much easier for someone to try it, and this country has a rather good record of latching on to thoroughly bad and unpleasant ideas. Brexit anyone?

In the course of researching this column I spoke to a very helpful member of the Church of England’s press team who explained there are theological reasons for the moving date, but the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has indicated that he hopes to change this. Pope Francis has talked about the same thing.

Welby has said he’ll consult with the aforementioned leader of the Catholic church and also with the Coptic Orthodox Pope to see if something could be worked out.

At a time of great division, such ecumenicalism is rather nice to see.

Welby has, however, warned that churches have been attempting since the 10th century to fix the date of the festival.

So those left barking at the moon as a result of dealing with cranky children would be advised not to get their hopes up.

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