Fixing the date of Easter?

Lord Norton

44044.jpg Does anyone have a view as to whether we should have a fixed date for Easter, a fixed Spring bank holiday separate from Easter as a religious occasion, or leave things as they are?

The Easter Act 1928 introduced a fixed date but provided that before a draft order could be laid before Parliament ‘regard shall be had to any opinion officially expressed by any Church or other Christian body’. When I tabled a question about this a few years ago, the Government replied that ‘At this time, the churches have not expressed a desire or willingness to moved to a fixed Easter’. The Government confirmed it had no plans to amend the 1928 Act.

This year’s early Easter has caused significant problems for a range of organisations. Has the time come to move to a fixed date? Are there any compelling reasons why we should not change?

I’m open to persuasion.

18 comments for “Fixing the date of Easter?

  1. Bedd Gelert
    23/03/2008 at 7:46 pm

    Lord Norton, But doing this would require us to arrange the movement of the spheres so that the timing of the vernal equinox, the phases of the moon and our Gregorian calendar would be in sync. I don’t think even your Lordships’ House have that level of control over the universe..

  2. 23/03/2008 at 9:43 pm

    Well, we manage to fix Christmas easily enough…

  3. lordnorton
    23/03/2008 at 9:58 pm

    That is why there is the proposal to leave Easter alone but not to have it as a Bank Holiday, but rather have a separate and fixed Spring Bank Holiday.

    Of course, if one was being pedantic about the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty, then Parliament can stipulate whatever date it wishes for Easter. In De Lolme’s famous phrase, ‘Parliament can do everything, but make a woman a man, and a man a woman’. Even that understates the case, since Parliament can legislate to change a man into a woman and vice versa. Indeed, it can be argued it has done this in some respects in the Gender Recognition Act. And Parliament could, of course, legislate to celebrate Easter through a public holiday on a date other than that on which it actually falls.

  4. Bedd Gelert
    23/03/2008 at 10:59 pm

    Hmm.. this is a fair point, but surely one would have to convince the Vatican to change it ? And if you could dictate changes there I think some people might have some requests to put higher up the batting order.

    To coin a phrase, Lord Norton, ‘Your slip is showing’ – the fact that you were an MP may be making you prone to tinkering where none is required, which is surely against the ‘if it ain’t broke..’ principle which is surely one of the major benefits of having the House of Lords.

    While we are on this topic, I got very annoyed this evening by some silly pretentious middle class type complaining about the extra cost of childcare as she had to take time off work during the school holidays due to the Easter break [well, you couldn’t have seen that coming, now could you..]

    The fact that she could afford to send her children to private school, and didn’t see the ‘half-full’ glass that she was working for the other weeks of the year, than the ‘half-empty’ glass of having to occasionally, shock, horror, look after her own children, was beyond satire.

    The danger of this ‘tinkering’ will start again when the lobby groups start to discuss ‘double summer time’ next week, and not long after that there will be the claims for new bank holidays and the like..

  5. Bedd Gelert
    23/03/2008 at 11:06 pm

    Oh dearie me, I’ve gone and torn it now… It will serve me right for posting at this late hour, as I’ve paid Lord Norton the ultimate insult by insinuating he used to inhabit ‘the other place’, like his fellow blogger Lord Soley.

    As well as a humble apology, I should pay penance by directing readers to this interesting and highly illuminating article from a recent copy of the Independent newspaper about the calculation of the date of the Easter holiday, and the various [futile] attempts [so far] to change it..

  6. lordnorton
    24/03/2008 at 12:42 am

    I have never been an MP!

    I don’t believe in fixing things that are not broken, but we are not dealing with something that is problem-free.

    ‘Double summer time’ is another matter, but something worth considering!

  7. ladytizzy
    24/03/2008 at 5:17 pm

    Undoubtedly, a fixed date for the Spring break would be preferable; the Church can continue determining Easter and leave the state to determine bank and public holidays.

    Furthermore, *all* state-funded schools, whether faith-based or not, should comply and stop messing up parents with children in two, or more, schools that independently set their holiday timetables.

    As a secularist, I am fast losing patience with the various faith systems who are taking some of my earnings to propagate their interests, time after time.

    But I may be wrong…

  8. CommonSenseAlliance
    24/03/2008 at 9:26 pm

    The main reason for the setting of easter by celestial bodies is the continuing usage of the gregorian calendar by the Eastern churches. The Church could set a date in the vatican- say April 5th which is around the average- but April 5th in the Eastern Orthodox churches is a completely different day. Setting the date by the lunar cycles allows both churches to celebrate the most important day in the Christian calendar without wading into old arguments. The Vatican can never set a date until this is resolved, and the church of england is essentially a catholic church. I would strongly resist setting dates differently- since the whole point of a holiday at this point is because of the importance of Easter, and until Easter itself is fixed the holiday should be left along. It would perhaps be more efficient to fix a date- but that doesn’t always mean it’s best.

    Happy Easter!

  9. CommonSenseAlliance
    24/03/2008 at 9:28 pm

    *I meant Julian calendar, sorry!

  10. Stuart
    24/03/2008 at 10:09 pm

    I can never remember when Easter is, so, yes, please do name the date and keep it fixed each year. Like 1p off the basic rate, it won’t transform my life, but it’d be nice.

  11. 25/03/2008 at 9:54 am

    Didn’t the League of Nations try to fix this anachronism in the 1920s?

  12. Matt
    25/03/2008 at 10:08 am

    For those who are interested, there’s a graph on Wikipedia that shows the distribution of Easter dates, and how rare this year’s early date was:

    And for the really geeky, the article explaining it all is:

  13. Bedd Gelert
    25/03/2008 at 12:23 pm

    Surely ‘variety is the spice of life’, so let us keep it as it is ?

    As for those who say that Christmas is on the same date every year, perhaps we could tie that to the cycle of the moon, and have some years with two [in January and December] and some years where we might be spared the farrago altogether.. Just a thought..

  14. lordnorton
    25/03/2008 at 6:40 pm

    There are two separate issues. One is deciding the date of Easter. The other is whether it should be separated from a public holiday. We have a public holiday to celebrate May day but it is not necessarily on May day itself. The Queen’s official birthday is marked by Trooping the Colour, which is always on a Saturday.

    Ladytizzy thinks the event and the public holiday should be separated, as I infer does Stuart. What are the arguments against?

  15. Stuart
    25/03/2008 at 7:15 pm

    This feels like a seminar! I guess that an effect of not separating them is further to bolt Christianity, through the official marking of Christian events, into our national life. Now, of course, we are officially a Christian nation, and so one might argue that that should be respected in decisions such as this, and that would therefore mean that the event and the public holiday should be kept together.

  16. Barbelo
    26/03/2008 at 7:33 pm

    What would the godess Oestre make of it all?

  17. ladytizzy
    28/03/2008 at 5:07 am

    Stuart, we may have a Christian state but I would argue that we don’t have a Christian nation. Further, half of current public holidays have no connection with Christian festivals; the other half are more closely associated with pagan events, hijacked by the Christians as alluded to by Barbelo.

  18. Howard Bird
    12/04/2008 at 11:31 am

    1 Easter should be fixed to the date of the passover of AD 33 (it can’t be difficult to work that out)
    2 In a multifith society linking public holidays to religious celebrations is bound to cause resentment. Let religioud dates stand alone and those who wish to adhere to them be given leave so to do. The rest can just treat it as a normal day. And I say that as a practising Christian!

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