It was the Night before Easter




Tradition tells us more than two thousand years ago, a wandering couple could not find a place to rest for the night. There was no shopping, no seafood to rush for, no traffic jams, no rich sugary snacks, no holiday, no hams and the most important gift was already with them, but yet to come. The only lights were the stars in the night sky. All they had was sheer determination, hope and purpose. And they were turned away at many places along the way.

Even then this couple found a barn and their infant was born in such unassuming circumstances.

Fast forward around three months and two thousand years later. The Bunny and Bilby chocolates are wrapped in paper gold like glint and wait on shop and supermarket shelves.   The climate turns to cooler in the southern parts of continental Australia.  Many families are looking forward to a four day weekend.  Many are planning driving trips across some corner of this vast land.  Some families catch up, some others go camping.  The air is nippy in the evenings, the colours of the sky change.

These two important religious dates in Western civilisation calendar - Christmas and Easter - are significantly celebrated in nations with an inherent Western Christian civilisation.  In Australia, they are the biggest holiday periods of all - also helped by the warmer, summer period in which they fall on the calendar, in contrast with the Northern hemisphere winter.  Christmas in this Great Southern Land is associated with surfing, beach sleep outs, barbecues and dressing down.  Easter sees the arrival of cooler nights, fresher air outdoors and a divide between the first and second school terms.

The festivals are religious inspired but are they fully marked according to the rituals, requirements and regimes of Christianity in all its varied forms?  Maybe not by everyone who professes to be Christian - and especially not with rising non-Christian demographics who now call Australia home.  The latter group do get caught up in family gatherings, shopping sales and seafood rush that the media popularise and mainstream society enjoys. The question is whether the religious meaning may have been under played in all this rush for gift spending, travelling and generally creating fun for the kids.

Why do we have Easter eggs, when they signify the arrival of spring, hope and renewal, in a land of falling brown leaves and drop in temperatures?  Why do we have cut pine trees to place in our houses when the flora is verdant and blooming outside?   Do we still take care of boxes on the day after Christmas?   Why do otherwise sane individuals spend so much on shopping after Christmas, when one has enough gifts shared and exchanged the day before?  Why do sales of chocolate hit a peak to mark an occasion with hope for mankind and nothing to do with sugary stuff and cacao?

Many people make travel plans around the Holy and Easter weeks.  More often, strikes at airports occur then than at other times of the year.   Late March and April sees a synchronisation of almost comparable moderate temperatures in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.  So commercialisation strikes again, with cruises, getaways and back packing plans all becoming reality.  

The origins of pre-Christian festivals may explain the timing of Christmas and Easter.  However, there are different opinions on this matter.   The reference in the Bible to shepherds attending to their flock of sheep when the infant Jesus was born can suggest it was already spring time, instead of early winter.
On the other hand, the Gospel of Luke states that the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary at the time of the spring equinox, which is in March, and so a birth in late December is logical.

The Romans had an important festival called the Saturnalia celebrated in late December.   The Jewish Passover almost coincides with Easter.  The Bible does not mention any specific calendar dates for the birth and cruxification of Jesus.

To me, the more significant matter is that both key occasions are acknowledged and not so much as to when.

So when you look at the full moon tonight, the least thing you can do is to remove yourself from the trappings of modern day conventions of  festive occasions. There is more than meets the eye.


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