After much anticipation and a lot of preparation, the Easter weekend has finally arrived. These have been holy days for Christians around the world. From what I’ve learned from family and friends, these turn out to also be days of celebration for many people who do not even follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, but who like to have a holiday with days off work and fun times regardless of the reason.
By the time we get to 7 a.m. on Sunday, many of us will already be in church for our annual Sunrise Service. Actually this year, the sun will already be up and shining before that hour unless you live over on the west side of a big hill. For many years, the Presbyterian churches of Brockway, Sugar Hill and Beechwoods have rotated this family service on Easter morning. This year it is scheduled for the Brockway Church where the church’s kitchen crew will serve the usual hearty breakfast right after the service.
It is expected that the weather will be nice and warm, too. No one will have to rely on four-wheel drive vehicles to get over the hills to Brockway as we’ve had to do on some occasions going to Beechwoods or Sugar Hill in past years – especially when Easter appeared earlier on the calendar. I’ve learned that it has been important to identify the date early each year as we plan for other community events and want to avoid conflicts.
According to the history books, prior to 325 A.D., churches in different parts of the world celebrated Easter on different dates, and not always on a Sunday. In 325 A.D., the Council of Nicaea made the celebration more uniform by declaring that Easter would always be celebrated on a Sunday. After the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, a system was established for deciding the actual date of Easter as “the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox (when the sun crosses the equator on its path northward). That fits 2017 since the April full moon came out last Tuesday.
The equinox may occur any time from March 21 until April 18, so Easter can fall on any Sunday from March 22 until April 25. We’re pretty close to the season-end this year. In 2018, Easter will come on April 1st so we will have to change our activities usually planned for April Fools’ Day. Then in 2019, the date will drop way down to April 21st – mark your cell phone calendars now before you forget.
At least our government hasn’t moved the official holiday to a Monday so they can make it a long weekend. But our government doesn’t acknowledge religious holidays. I guess they didn’t need to do that since most government workers seem to find some way to take those days off anyway.
Over the years, those of us who spent time in the classroom usually had Good Friday and Easter Monday off, unless our administration felt the need to take one or two days to make up for a previously lost snow day. That always created problems since teachers and parents had begun to count on those days for a variety of out-of-school activities and mini-vacations.
In my years as a part-time farmer, the days of Easter vacation were always important to me. It was a time to get things moving on the farm toward spring planting. For many years, the winter’s accumulation of manure was piled out behind the barn and this was a reasonable time to bucket-load it into the spreader for distribution of this home-made fertilizer across my fields that were scheduled for plowing and planting that spring. It also created an interesting spring-aroma across the neighborhood down-wind from the farm letting everyone know that spring had truly arrived.
The dates for Easter and the accompanying Good Friday are also significant to Evelyn and me in a different way. We were married on Good Friday and, what better day could we have chosen. In those days, I didn’t have anything called “Personal Days” so it was a logical move to be married over a regular school holiday when I wouldn’t have to go to work. I can’t exactly say how long ago that was since the number of years keeps changing every year. Remembering the anniversary date isn’t easy either. Good Friday falls on a different day of the year most of the time, and it can even land on April Fools’ Day now and then as in two years from now.
We were actually married on April 4th of 1969 at the Brockway Presbyterian Church with the Rev. Dan Little officiating and a small group of close family in attendance. We are currently biding our time as we “Go for the Gold” in 2019. We held our reception dinner at our recently constructed house on Arch Street where we’ve lived ever since, and raised our family of farmers. I arranged for Anna Adams and Nita Himes to cook the meal. I knew I could count on them to do a good job because they had been feeding me in the school cafeteria forever. Then we released the extended family onto their own ways, packed Evelyn’s kids off to their Grandmother Hicks’ place at Rockdale, and headed east for Philadelphia.
I had an elderly aunt Catherine Cooper Thorp living in Philadelphia who was not physically able to come to our wedding. We had arranged to pick up Aunt Catherine and her daughter Elizabeth Thorp for church that Easter morning for services in the Tenth Presbyterian Church in the heart of the city. We found a parking space and climbed the front steps of the church. As we entered the front of the church, we felt right at home when we found ourselves inside at the back of the sanctuary as we do every
Sunday back home in Brockway.
Under Aunt Catherine’s directions, we moved to seats of her choice where she acknowledged a few of the regulars in those pews. Almost immediately there was a drum roll from kettle drums in the back balcony right above our heads. We turned to look and saw that the drums were followed with spine-chilling sounds from a line of those long herald trumpets like I had never seen or heard in person before in my life, that were commonly used to announce the arrival of royalty (or maybe the beginning of a royal sporting event).
It was among the most moving experiences of our lives as we found ourselves among the diverse population of the city of Philadelphia –obviously the poor and the rich, the young and the old –all there to celebrate the meaning of the day, and of the Easter season.
May you experience the same kind of thrill this weekend as you join in the celebration of the day. Regardless of your religious affiliation, or even the lack of any at all, recall with us the events of Holy Week, and ponder how this message may give meaning to your own life. HAPPY EASTER!