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Death to Easter Bugbears

I have three bugbears about Easter.

And I’m conscious they may make me sound like a grumpy middle-aged man. But rest assured, once I get these off my chest, I will end this post on an encouraging note.

First, the bugbears.


No, not romantic liaisons. I’m referring to the method we use for setting the date for Easter.

As a planner, I find the variability of the date of Easter frustrating. It causes me a headache when scheduling courses and conferences in the spring. It imbalances the lengths of terms in my children’s school and college. And it isn’t just a little variable. The earliest and latest dates—22 March and 25 April—are more than a month apart!

I got excited a few years ago when it was announced that the Pope and other major global ecclesiastical leaders were in discussions over setting a fixed date for Easter, perhaps on the second or third Sunday of April. I’m not sure if they came to any decisions (and I note that Living Leadership has not yet been invited to participate 😉), but they would have my vote if they decided to do it.

When I reflect on this desire for regularity, however, I fear this may have more to do with me than the dating of Easter. If I’m honest, this may be a sign of my tendency to want to over-programme things. Am I resentful of one of the few things in the calendar that is not entirely regular? Might it be a healthy thing for me to have to check up on when Easter will be this year, and to be creative about the implications of its variability for my plans?

The date of Easter is, of course, set by the moon. It is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the northern spring equinox. Lunar calendars have served humankind well for millennia, and are still used in both Judaism and Islam. Is my preference for the regularity of the solar calendar over the more anarchic lunar programme reflective of a defect in my psychology or spirituality? Might I need to temper my solar intensity with a bit of lunar chill?

As I pondered this, I realised that perhaps my first Easter bugbear is in tension with my second.


For the average person on the streets of Britain or Ireland, Easter seems to be about three things.

  • Time off.

  • The arrival of spring (symbolised by bunnies, chicks, and flowers).

  • Chocolate (usually in the shape of eggs).

None of these is a bad thing. I enjoy the lengthening days, the signs of new life, and the taste of cocoa as much as the next person. But they are not what Easter is truly about.

Easter is, of course, about the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This is the occasion when we focus on the very centre of our faith—'the things of first importance’ (1 Cor 15.3ff). It is the great high feast of the liturgical year when we have more reason to celebrate than anyone has ever had.

What greater story could ever rival Easter?

Yet, I find myself struggling to remember this every time Easter approaches. Instead, I feel like I’m winding down to a break. That isn’t bad—and not at all contradictory to festal celebration—but I know I could be more disciplined in my preparations for Easter. I must admit that I’ve never been a committed Lent observer, so that may partly explain it. In addition, my low church heritage and my relative ignorance of the ecclesiastical calendar may also play a part.

All that said, Easter is a gift. Such a gift!

Each year, I am given the opportunity to draw close to the heart of my faith. Indeed, it is presented as a holiday and a time of celebration.

However, this leads to my third concern.


I have never understood why we call it Easter. I know that, following the Venerable Bede, the etymology of the word is often traced to the name of a pagan fertility goddess, Eostre, although it may simply come from the word for East. Why we should settle for this term after so many centuries of Christian influence, I do not know. So, despite my usual love for good old Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) words, I envy the French, whose name, Pâques, derives from the word, Passover.

I find it ironic that the other popular festival of the Christian faith—Christmas—has a name that is undeniably tied to Jesus, and has become a much more prominent holiday. I wish we could rename Easter something like ‘Resurrection Day’, or ‘Lordmas’, or ‘Jesus has been declared to be the Son of God in power Day’. It would make it much easier to bring conversations round to Christ. However, although that would be a positive thing, I suspect none of these will ever catch on. I’m also aware that the idea of renaming days as well as changing calendars has a whiff of revolutionary zeal.

So, before I cry ‘Vive La Révolution!’ with too much gusto, let me finish by focusing on what Easter is all about.


My three Easter bugbears are shared partly in jest. None of them has much to do with my experience of Easter. The date could be fixed and I would still be in danger of failing to make the most of it. I have no power to reverse the secularisation of society, but I can remedy the secularisation of my heart, large parts of which are ‘Un-Christianised’. I may not like the name, but I can still take the opportunity to stop and gaze in wonder.

At the cross.

At the empty tomb.

New life is breaking forth as I write. I see it from my window, with buds about to open and birds making nests. We even enjoyed a couple of hours of sunshine here in Ireland today! The return of biological life, with its beauty, colour, and variety, never fails to surprise me. Not in the ‘unexpected’ sense, but in the ‘astonishing’ sense. No matter how many years I have walked on this planet, it is still capable of taking my breath away.

Yet more startling still is the new life burgeoning in people across the world who are coming to faith in Christ. And of endless wonder is the new life that can sprout in this heart of mine.

The revolution I need is within my jaded soul.

When I stop and ponder the cross and the resurrection, I discover that my bugbears flee and my joy rises. My body’s resurrection is yet to come, but I have already been raised with Christ and, when I gaze on him, this new life in me springs up, irrepressible.

This Easter, I pray that you are able to make time to bask in the glory of this simple fact:

God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.


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