Monday, May 01, 2006

A Fixed Date for British Easter?

There was an interesting editorial (or as they call it across the pond, a "leader") in today's Guardian extolling the virtues of the May Day holiday. It's one of eight public holidays enjoyed by workers in the UK, and the Guardian laments the fact that there aren't more. While this complaint will likely sound like whining to most Americans, who are notoriously overworked, I agree that we could all use more vacation. However, I found part of the editorial a bit strange:
"... Because this year the May Day holiday actually falls on May 1 - many of us will be only too aware that it is a mere two weeks since the last one on Easter Monday. With so few public holidays to go round, surely we could arrange things rather better, as well as more generously, than this?... The real issue in any attempt to tidy up the spring public holidays is not whether May Day should be a holiday but agreement on a fixed Easter. It is nearly 80 years since parliament passed an Easter Act (still in force), which allowed the church a veto over any purely secular attempt to anchor Easter more sensibly on the last weekend in March or the first in April. But do not hold your breath while this happens. Even progressive church elders recoil from a unilaterally fixed British Easter."

How annoying that Easter (and Passover, for that matter) doesn't have a fixed place on the calendar, and that the Church of England refuses to accommodate itself to the vacation needs of the British people!! Doesn't the Church realize that "British Easter", whatever its origin in ancient religious tradition, is not really about worship - it's about a three-day weekend of travel and relaxation! Clearly, the time has come for a new Easter Act that's more in tune with the modern age (after all, it's been 80 years since the last one).

To my American ears, this all sounds quite ridiculous. Does Parliament really think they have the authority to set a date for Easter? And if they did succeed in passing a revised Easter Act, would members of the Church of England be required to celebrate Easter on a different day than Episcopalians in America or Australia? Or is "British Easter" something different that "Christian Easter"? Regardless, even the Guardian acknowledges that their scheme has little chance of success:
"Even if the western churches could agree [on a fixed date for Easter], there is still the problem of the separate orthodox Easter to overcome. And it is unlikely that a festival so intimately linked to the Jewish Passover can ever be fixed more conveniently. Much better to enjoy the current jumble and press politicians for extra public holidays in midsummer and mid-autumn."

With regards to that last remark, they offer a few suggestions: "Trafalgar Day, Guy Fawkes, or even Margaret Thatcher's birthday." Considering the Guardian's politics, they must be really desperate for more vacation if they're willing to make Thatcher's birthday a holiday!

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