This year during the season of Lent, Easter Sunday falls on April 9. But as a child this reoccurring religious observance puzzled me. I couldn’t understand why Easter never fell on the same day each year like Christmas or Halloween (or the more recent annual event, Squirrel Appreciation Day which is January 21 in case you’re planning to store some nuts for next year).
My parents attempted to explain the calendar-jumping by declaring Easter was “the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox.” This was as clear as a lump of Christmas coal to a 7-year-old.
The term “Lent” was a mystery, too. I still recall one year when a young school chum convinced me this was a time when we were morally obliged to lend money to friends who asked for it. So, when my buddy demanded a few dollars, I dutifully lent.
Recognizing me as a rather gullible child, the same crafty kid later informed me that if you neglected to demand your money back before Easter Sunday, you lost it. I lost it. My parents scolded me for being so easily swindled.
Another Easter puzzler for me was its association with rabbits since there are no such critters in Christian history: my Sunday School classes made no reference to rabbits used for burnt offerings, John the Baptist never exclaimed “Behold the Hare of God,” and none of the ten plagues depicted in Exodus described hordes of bouncing bunnies terrorizing Egypt.
And where about eggs? Where did they fit into the Easter scheme of things? Rabbits don’t lay eggs, no matter how much you encourage them. Reptiles do, but my suggestion in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper proposing the introduction of an enchanting Easter gecko mascot never caught on – although I’ve always suspected a national insurance company might have got wind of it. As for the Easter eggs, they are not just ordinary eggs, of course. Oh no. In the U.S., they must be dyed and decorated.
Fluctuating dates, Lent, rabbits, eggs – I gave up long ago trying to figure it all out. But it does bring to mind an old Martha Stewart TV segment where the lifestyle guru wryly claimed that feeding chickens with colored fruits or vegetables could produce colored eggs.
“Interesting,” I remember thinking at the time, as I raced out the door to buy a can of beet juice to test the theory on our own hens.
“Still gullible, huh?” mocked a family member, pointing out on my return that Stewart’s show was originally broadcast on April 1.
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for many magazines and newspapers. See GetNickT.org.