Standardizing Easter, Part 2
Impact on spring festivals
AN ORIGINAL ©MIKE LUCKOVICH CARTOON FOR NEW ORLEANS MAGAZINE
Welcome to April: the month in which Easter is usually observed, but not this time around. This year Easter was early, which accounted for Mardi Gras being early, too: Feb. 9, only 45 days after Christmas.
As we reported in our March issue, there’s a movement to standardize the date of Easter, which is celebrated on different, mostly lunar-based weekends by different Christian sects. In the West, the date has traditionally been set on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This is not an issue that has been impulsively debated. Movements to standardize the date can be traced back to the second century. This time around the idea seems to have traction. It has been advanced by the Coptic Orthodox Church and other related religions. Significantly, Pope Francis has also endorsed the idea, as has the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has predicted the change will come within the next five to 10 years,
Most of the discussion suggests that the standard date should be the second Sunday in April. If that were in place, this year Easter would be April 10 and Mardi Gras would have been Feb. 23. Each year those two holidays would be within the same week. Twelfth Night, Jan. 6, would remain as the start of the Carnival season; only now the number of days from Twelfth Night to Mardi Gras would be more uniform.
For most of the world the date of Easter is no big issue; for places such as New Orleans that celebrate Mardi Gras, the change is more complex. Overall, the switch from early-dated Carnivals, which often tend to be colder and draw fewer people because of their proximity to the holidays, would be for the better.
Though not at all connected to the lunar calendar, the change would also effect the local French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, both of which could find themselves a week or more later than their usual dates. Neither, it seems, would be adversely effected by the change.
Though there seems to be good momentum for the change, there are few bumps along the way. One is long term calendar listings, which would have to be reworked. The other is that in some countries church holiday changes need to be approved by the government. We expect little objection.
Overall the change seems on course, especially with the support of Pope Francis and other leaders, who see the spiritual significance of having Christianity’s most sacred day celebrated at the same time globally.
For now planners, priests, paraders and parents of debutantes-to-be should at least be aware that there might be a change coming that has been two centuries in the making. In New Orleans that means that from Twelfth Night to the closing performance at Jazz Fest the spring celebratory season will be a little longer. Maybe on the Vernal Equinox we can even dance to the light of the moon.