Easter, being movable, is an annoying feast for a culture that likes to plan ahead. Just over a century ago it fell on March 22. Then again, it could be as late as April 25.
This year, it’s quite late: April 16. This makes holidays and, more crucially, the commercial Easter – which is essentially about chocolate – harder to plan. That was one reason why Parliament, in a fit of quite magnificent insularity, legislated in 1928 that Easter should henceforth fall between April 9 and April 16 (that’s still on the statute books). The rest of Christendom has yet to follow suit, though it doesn’t stop secularists periodically asking that the spring school holidays be separated from Easter.
It’s an instance of how the rhythm of the Church’s year, based on the lunar calendar and the Jewish Passover, is not really suited to contemporary urban and commercial life – thank God. And the dates of other feasts depend on the vagaries of Easter.
Ascension Day should be 40 days after Easter, except that the Church in England and Wales has unhelpfully transferred it to the next Sunday (don’t get me started). Whit, or Pentecost, Sunday should be 50 days after Easter. Neither of these latter feasts impinge on the secular consciousness, though the Whit weekend was once famous.
But Easter is still embraced by the culture, which is half the trouble. Ours is a society that’s perfectly hospitable to feasts, so long as they are commercially exploitable. And Easter, though it obviously doesn’t offer anything like the consumption opportunities that Christmas does, is still good as a festival of chocolate, spring flowers and legs of lamb.
As for hot cross buns, they’ve been available in M&S for weeks. Unlike in Spain, where the Holy Week spectacle rather peters out by Easter Sunday, the actual Passion doesn’t loom large here, except as a bank holiday. Indeed, before bank holidays were formally introduced, Good Friday was, besides Sundays, one of only two public holidays that Protestant England allowed for, the other being Christmas Day. At present, it’s an opportunity to get on with the Easter bank holiday travel.
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