Once in a blue moon, something phenomenal happens: Easter falls on April 1st, April Fool’s Day.
The “blue moon” part of that sentence is no joke either because March, like January this year, has two full moons, referred to as blue moons.
The dates for Easter vary each year and it’s all related to the moon. It all revolves around spring and the Vernal Equinox. The first Sunday after the 1st full moon following the Vernal Equinox sets the date for Easter. A simple equation this year is: spring arrives March 20th plus a full moon March 31st on Saturday equals Sunday, April 1st as Easter.
Easter fell on April Fools’ Day in 1714, 1725, and 1736. It happened again in 1866, 1877, and 1888. It also happened in 1923, 1934, 1945 and 1956. All three groups of dates came 11 years apart. Now, in 2018, it won’t happen again for another 11 years, in 2029.
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The beginning of the Easter season starts with the season of Lent, observed by Christian churches. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. This year, Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day. Lent covers the 40 days before Easter, excluding Sundays, and ends on Easter Sunday.
Lent is a season when Christians fast, pray, go to church and stay away from amusements, with many protestant churches holding special gatherings. Originally Lent was for a 36-day period to fast, but by the reign of Charlemagne, about the year 800, four days were added to correspond to Christ’s forty-day fast in the wilderness.
Palm Sunday is the last Sunday before Easter and is the beginning of Holy Week. Palm Sunday services honor Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. According to John 12: 12-13: “The next day the great crowd that had come for the feast heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the King of Israel. See, your King is coming seated on a donkey.’”
Palm Sunday was first celebrated by the Christian church in Jerusalem with a joyous procession that started at the Mount of Olives. The Roman Catholic and Greek Church have their own Palm Sunday celebration, while protestant churches in general have a very simple service, sometimes using laurel, olive, willow and other branches instead of the palms.
In most Christian churches, Easter marks the end of the 40-day observance of Lent and is a springtime Christian celebration honoring the resurrection of Jesus. Protestant churches commonly observe Easter with special services, music and flowers, with some churches holding baptismal services.
A mass on Easter Sunday closes the Lenten season in the Catholic Church and in some Episcopal churches. The Jewish Passover comes at about the same time.
Along with the joyous celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter, other customs are also practiced, such as the wearing of new clothes just as the earth is dressed in a new cloak of greenery with springtime. Churches are decorated with white Easter lilies, a symbol of purity and light, and crosses, a reminder to worshipers of the sacrifice Jesus paid for us, the real meaning of the Easter season.
Of course there’s also dyed Easter eggs to fill baskets and for egg hunts. The idea of Easter eggs came to us from ancient Egypt and Persia. The eggs are a sign of new life, following in the path of spring bringing new life, but more importantly that the Resurrection of Jesus brings new life to all believers.
Contributor Jean Tanner is a lifetime rural resident of the Bluffton area and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.