Easter is April 8th this year, a joy, a holiday. Holidays create family atmosphere like nothing else. A break from routine, holidays are a time of gathering of the clan and rejuvenating of spirits.
Some holidays are set dates:
- New Year – January 1st
- Christmas – December 25th
- Independence Day – July 4th
Some are set days but movable dates:
- Thanksgiving – 4th Thursday in November
- Labor Day – 1st Monday in September
- Easter – 1st Sunday after Full Moon after 21st day of March
Others have changed from a specific date to a set day:
- Memorial Day previously known as Decoration Day was May 30th and is now the last Monday in May.
- Washington’s Birthday February 22nd became Presidents’ Day the 3rd Monday in February and is now referred to as Presidents’ Weekend.
- Columbus Day was October 12th and is now the second Monday in October.
Veterans Day previously Armistice Day, was also changed by the Uniform Holiday Bill signed in 1968, effective 1971 to ensure three day weekends for Federal employees. Veterans Day, November 11th became the 4th Monday in October. Many states did not agree with this federal decision and continued to celebrate holidays on their original dates. Veterans groups wanted to preserve the historical significance of the 11th day of the 11th month and lobbied for 1975 Public Law 94-7 which in 1978 returned the observance of Veteran’s Day to November 11th. For the same reason, there have been bills in both houses of Congress to return Memorial Day to May 30th.
Easter is also a floating holiday, always on Sunday, but the date ranges from March 22 to April 25. Our Easter traditions changed from place to place depending on geography, weather and the style of church in the area. In Wyoming our Episcopal Church was low church, in Pennsylvania it was high church and in North Carolina it was low church again. In Montana, Colorado and Wyoming, it could very well snow on Easter, but not so in Kentucky or North Carolina. We always dressed up in new Easter clothes, and in Louisville, we wore corsages. In high church, the minister was usually called Father, while in low church he was usually called Reverend. Those are the differences that catch the eye and ear of an elementary school child…
So When Was Easter?
At home before church, we would have an Easter basket hunt and after church were the egg hunts at home, inside and outside depending on the snow. Several years in a row, my sister and I were given the most amazing porcelain bisque jointed dolls of my mom’s as Easter gifts. One of mine was Western Miss seen below.
These dolls came in compelling white/cream boxes with polka dots, light blue, soft pink or red polka dots. They were under our Easter baskets and we knew after the first year to be very, very gentle. They are called Nancy Ann Storybook dolls. We called them Easter dolls. This was a wonderful Easter tradition, which I adapted when I gave my daughter wooden doll house furniture, a room at a time. Candy is fine, but traditions might be even better, candy is gone and tradition remains. Books or baseballs inscribed with Easter greetings are also a great tradition.
Talk about traditions at dinner this Easter. If you are lucky enough to share dinner with siblings, play the “do you remember when” game. Are your traditions home and family based or church based? It’s easier to be church based if you go to the same church for years and years. Kids like to hear that this is the way it’s always done.
One simple home tradition of ours is to mix all the dyes at the end of egg dying. It always turns out some weird brown color. Put the last egg in and leave it overnight. It isn’t a very pretty egg, but it is dastardly hard to find outside in the grass.
- When was Easter?
- When is Easter?
- Why does Easter move?
If you have a family story that takes place on or near Easter or a family Bible that cites an Easter date, it is important to figure out when Easter was in that particular year.
- Great uncle Jim died on Easter.
- That baby was due Easter Sunday, but was a week late.
- They ran away to get married, because no one would marry them during Lent or on Easter.
- Long lost cousin Ralph enlisted right before Easter and we never saw him again.
Easter dates range from March 22 through April 25. I use my Book of Common Prayer to check, but it is a very small Prayer Book with a font that can not be imagined it is so small, size 2. I used it this year since my niece’s birthday falls on Easter, and can say for certain, as I age, I will be searching for different places to look that up. The book is the size of an index card.
In my 1928 edition prayer book the Table is on page liii.
In the slightly larger 1979 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, the Tables are on pages 881 and 882.
There are also tables in these Prayer books to identify the dates for various movable feasts and special days. If there is a note in the family Bible that your great grandfather was born on Ascension Day you can figure out the date or if you know the date but not the year, you can find the year. This works for Lent, Advent, Epiphany and all the movable feasts. In addition there is a calendar of holidays on specific dates every year.
When trying to determine dates of federal holidays in the 1970s,, because of the Federal Holiday Bill and ensuing confusion, check carefully into those federal holidays’ dates between 1968 and 1975. Also check for state and local accepting or rejecting the movement of the holidays from their original dates to convenient dates for Federal Employees.
Four members of my family have birthdays that can be on Easter. When I was twelve, my brother and I discovered in the year 2000 his birthday would be on Easter. We were so excited. One of his children can have Easter birthdays, too. Weaving special stories about those birthdays into your family history is easy as long as you have the dates right. Marriages that take place over Labor Day weekend do not always have anniversaries on Labor Day weekend.