Welcome to this seasonal edition of The Study, one of an occasional series where I look at a subject in-depth. By which I mean I poke about a bit and find out more detail by research and supposition, not put on a diving suit.
For this edition we are going to look at Easter. Now, I am aware that this is not appropriately timely, being as it is coming just after Easter and not before, however there is a perfectly valid reason for this.
I was hanging around a few weeks ago, dutifully bearing the strain of three shopping bags weighing about 10 kilos each and getting heavier, while Mrs Bryntin was having a chat with a friend she had spotted just outside the supermarket. This little chat may have taken three to four hours. Certainly, by the time it had finished, the bags were nearly touching the ground and my initial ‘polite and cheerful, patiently nodding and looking agreeable’ smile had drooped at the edges and may have become more my ‘grr… give me strength’ grimace.
I did spend some of the time thinking up the plot to a story, featuring an unfortunate and messy accident involving a poor chatty-but-otherwise-innocent lady outside a supermarket called Mrs Brown and a psychopathic-looking trolley collection guy and his long fast-moving train of carts but I didn’t have any hands left to make any notes.
Anyway, one phrase the friend used during the conversation was ‘..and of course, Easter is going to be late this year.’ There were other phrases, mostly about someone called Arthur and how he was a martyr to his feet but I may save those for another study.
This, of course, troubled my tiny mind and I waited to publish my Study on Easter, just in case the friend was correct. But it seems Easter did happen exactly when the calendars said it would.
So my Study is late, not Easter.
Sorry about that.
The date of Easter may seem random to those not schooled in the study of the phases of the Moon and the egg laying cycles of chocolate chickens, however that is indeed how the date is arrived at each year.
Chocolate chickens, so named because they only eat chocolate bean seeds, only lay their brightly coloured eggs just after a full moon in the spring equinox, also known as the Paschal Moon. Due to the logical certainty and mathematical preciseness of the orbits of the observable universe in general, and despite Mrs Brown thinking it was going to be late, Easter is a festival celebrated on a completely different date every year but is not actually ever late.
Before Easter was another commercial opportunity for the early mass manufacturers of goods (see ‘Christmas’) it held great significance in the calendar year, even though most common people had to rely on calendar manufacturers and the clever village person who could read to know when it was going to be each year. It was possible to work it out for yourself but you had to study at a major university and have access to a telescope, a calculator and chocolate chickens, but it was quite unlikely that you’d be given time off from ploughing the fields to do this.
Therefore the Church took on the role of informing everyone when Easter was and came up with helpful story about celebrating someone rising from the dead on an ascending device after Macgyvering his way out of a tomb.
No one filmed how this was done and the other possible witnesses were dead and stayed dead, however, many painters were around and made some quite intricate recordings of the scene as the spotlight was shone on the illusion. Helicopters or elevators hadn’t been invented yet as far as we are aware, so the method of ascending is not really understood. Certainly none of the painters captured either of these devices.
This was a greatly entertaining story and a joyous ending to the tale which had started dramatically with the hero being killed while being tortured at a popular entertainment event in the first place.
The Church was at pains to point out that ascending devices were not generally available to anyone else so it was best to avoid popular future entertainment events – or indeed, even being too entertained in general – except perhaps any of those put on periodically by the Church, which had good parking and plenty of seating inside even if not particularly warm or comfortable.
It has to be said that the pre-church versions of Easter didn’t have anything being killed and therefore needing a never-before-witnessed ascending miracle in it. However the story was more popular with the peasant crowds and most went home feeling happy that the hero had endured, even though he was technically still dead.
Once someone invented a bunny to deliver chocolate eggs, and the alternative was just another day in the fields like all the other days of the year, nobody could remember when there wasn’t an Easter or what it was like before there were churches, so today’s Easter settled in although it still couldn’t stay put.
No one asked the chocolate chickens if they were alright with a non-egg laying mammal being given the delivery job but, in general, chocolate chickens don’t have many opinions and don’t talk very much anyway.
The festival of Easter now occupies a large section of the calendar every year – there are things that officially happen ‘before Easter’ and ‘after Easter’ – so is commonly used as a waymarker in the year to conveniently place things like the start and finish of school terms, the traditional starting of tourist seasons and the beginning point of popular tabloid newspapers announcing that this summer is likely to be a scorcher.
It also remains very popular with peasants for exactly the same reasons as before – basically, eating chocolate eggs for reasons you can’t remember and officially having a few days off work all in a row.