Posts Tagged ‘Easter’


Calculating Easter

April 6, 2010

We mentioned in passing that Easter here in Cyprus does not always coincide with Easter in other parts of the world.  A moral obligation to explain why reared its ugly head but a large glass of crisp white wine dealt with that.

You see, it’s all to do with the first Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox.  And the Julian and Gregorian calendars and the missing 13 days.  Oh, and the Nicaea Council of 325AD.  And Passover, that’s important too.  You can see the appeal of the white wine in the face of all that surely?

Happily someone at the Cyprus Mail took on the challenge and published a useful explanation.  Read carefully, there may be a test later on.

THIS YEAR, like next year, Easter falls on the same day for both Orthodox and Western Christians.

Next year Easter Sunday falls on April 24. The problem in identifying when precisely Easter occurs perhaps stems from the time of the Apostles of Christ, who did not actually record the date of his resurrection.

This then left room for approximations, historical research and logical deduction: when exactly did the Resurrection occur, and when would it best be celebrated? These speculations and logical discourses, by means of ecumenical councils, became codified into Church lore over the centuries.

Both Orthodox Christians and the rest of the Christian world, including Catholics and Protestants, define the date in the same way as the first Sunday after the full moon following the first Vernal Equinox.

The equinox is an astronomical event, being the two days in the year when the Sun crosses the equator – as viewed from Earth – and with night and day being of equal length. However, the early Church fathers convened the Conference of Nicaea in 325AD, during which they decided to calculate the date by means of reference to pre-formulated tables instead of waiting to see when the days of the year were the same length.

These tables were formulated using the Julian calendar in place at the time, which was originally designed by Julius Caesar, the Roman emperor.

Caesar’s calendar was actually quite accurate: it erred from the real solar calendar by only 11½ minutes a year. After centuries, though, even a small inaccuracy like this adds up. By the 16th century, it had put the Julian calendar behind the solar one – the actual astronomical position of the solar system – by ten days.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered the advancement of the calendar by ten days and introduced a new corrective device to curb further error.

If somewhat inelegant, this system is undeniably effective, and is still in official use for most countries globally. The Gregorian calendar year differs from the solar year by only 26 seconds—accurate enough for most mortals, since this only adds up to one day’s difference every 3,323 years.

Following the schism between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, the former ended up retaining the Julian system, whilst the latter based their calculations on dates from the Gregorian calendar.

The approximate 13-day difference currently experienced between the two calendars is expected to continue to add up as the centuries progress.

On top of the calendrical differences, a number of canonical theological considerations factor into the process. The most pertinent of these, again stemming from Nicaea, is the tradition that Easter must always fall after the Jewish Passover, since the death, burial and resurrection of Christ happened after the celebration of Passover.

This, in turn, factors the Jewish lunar calendar into the considerations determining the date of Easter.

You can see why the thought of explaining that brings on a headache?

Next year, 2011, the Western and Eastern calculations coincide once more.  To balance that out in 2013 they are far apart once more with the Western date falling in March whilst here in Cyprus we won’t celebrate Easter until May.  The same is true again in 2016.


Village Life: Easter

April 3, 2010

Caught out again. Once more we fear that we are probably the talk of the village. In a nice way of course as they are both welcoming and tolerant of our strange English ways. But we’re pretty sure that there is talk out our strange English ways and, in conjunction with that, eyebrows have been raised once more.

This is Easter weekend. You knew that, of course, as you are probably reading this with chocolate easter eggs to hand. We are not: they are prohibitively expensive here so we choose to do without. Anyway, it is Easter here and Easter in the rest of the world also. That isn’t always the way; Greek Cypriots celebrate the Eastern Orthodox festival the date of which is calculated differently to Easter as celebrated in the UK and North America.

Some years the calculations result in the holiday falling at the same time, other years it can be as much as 4 or 5 weeks adrift. In 2008 when there was much commentary in the UK about how early Easter was, the third week in March, here in Cyprus that was barely the start of Lent with Easter weekend falling late in April, four weeks later.

This year, and next, the two churches are in sync.

Easter is arguably the biggest religious fesitval of the year, though in this modern world Christmas is making a strong challenge. For now at least this time of year is important in terms of Church and family and also celebration and feasting after the long period of Lent. Late last week the supermarkets were heaving with folks stocking up on all those goods that have been forbidden for the last seven weeks; the bakeries and butchery counters were doing particularly good trade as meat and sugar were finally allowed back into people’s diets.

Yesterday, Good Friday, heralded one of the biggest church services of the year. We knew our village would all turn out for the late service, followed by a traditional meal of egg and lemon soup and blessings of the houses by the local priest to ward off ill omens for the remainder of the year. We choose to stay home and have a quiet evening whilst listening to the bells call the faithful to church.

This morning all was quiet again. We, foolishly it seems, expected the villagers to have a quiet morning to compensate for their midnight worship and late meal if nothing else. So we were somewhat surprised when there was a slight commotion outside the gate followed by hesitant knock. Curious to see what was going on we trotted down the garden to find the gate being pushed open and one of the village committee standing there. Behind her stood the mukhtar.

She looked part amused, part embarrased as she handed over a cellophane wrapped and be-ribboned tray.

“For you. From the village. For Easter.”

Said she with perhaps more emphasis that was needed. True, we hadn’t been to the midnight service but we did know that it was Easter. Actually, being entirely fair, perhaps the discomfort was having to talk to the two nice-but-slightly-strange English people at their gate while they were still wearing PJs.  Sleepwear to some.

Look, it was Saturday morning. We thought the rest of the village would be asleep and we weren’t expecting visitors. We’d have got dressed eventually … possibly even by midday.

And our gift from the village? A prettily wrapped supply of Easter delicacies on a tray, flaounes no less.   The Little White Donkey makes her own; these presumably were courtesy of the local bakery.

Easter Goodies

But can you see? Underneath, on the left hand side, there’s something else. Until we unwrapped the tray we couldn’t make out what it was. More bakery goodies perhaps? Chocolates or biscuits maybe?

Ahhh, but no, this is Cyprus. It’s an icon. No, really. The village has gifted us our very own wall hanging icon.

House Icon

You can almost imagine the committee meeting when the trays are discussed next year.

Should the strange-but-nice-English people get one?

Yes, they’re part of the village.

With an icon? We know they are not Greek Orthodox.

Yes, perhaps it’ll encourage them to join and I hear the house does not have a single icon at present.

OK, so they get the tray and the icon but be sure to deliver theirs last; remember last year when they were still in their pajamas at 10 o’clock in the morning?!

Really, we’re the talk of the village once more!