Easter in Greece: the joys of time travel

We had the last overnight frost Sunday-Monday but temperatures are still stuck in single figures.  Wednesday evening we settled into a grey, wet weather pattern again.  Dismal!

Not surprising therefore that my thoughts are increasingly turning to the summer’s activities in Greece and I have mapped out a rough plan.

First part of the plan is to spend Easter on Kalymnos.  Yes, that’s right, it’s not a misprint, it’s all down to a time machine, or rather the manipulation of time for the sake of convenience.

The thing is that Easter is a Moveable Feast, probably the original moveable feast.  Since the First Council of Nicaea in 325AD the date of Easter has been calculated as the first Sunday after the Paschal (Easter) Full Moon following the March equinox.  It may seem a little weird to determine the celebration of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ by the phases of the moon, but no stranger, though a lot more complicated, than fixing the date of Christmas by the pagan Roman festival of Saturnalia.

Unfortunately it has been even weirder and more complicated than that since 1582.   That was the year that the Roman Catholic Church took action to correct the steady drift in the date Easter was celebrated and to bring it back to the time of year intended by the First Council of Nicaea.  So they changed the calendar, the Gregorian Calendar replacing the Julian Calendar.  At least it did in Catholic countries.  Protestant and Eastern Orthodox countries stuck with the Julian/Byzantine Calendars, gradually switching in the interests of international trade over ensuing centuries.  Britain changed in 1752. The day after 2 September that year was 14 September and there were riots as people demanded their 11 days back.  Only in 1923 did Greece change, the last European country to do so, a year after the USSR.

However, the Orthodox Church continues to use the Julian Calendar to calculate Easter.  This means that most countries celebrate Easter sometime between 22 March and 25 April whereas in Greece Easter falls sometime between 4 April and 8 May.  This year Easter Sunday in Greece is 5 May.

It really is very much more complicated than that with complexities of leap years (every year divisible by 4 unless it is divisible by 100, except for those at the turn of a century not divisible by 400). Leap seconds have taken on an increasingly critical importance as precise measurement of nano-time is essential to the functioning of GPS without which smart phones couldn’t locate the nearest pub and guided missiles would go astray. Personally I like to simplify things. I find it deeply gratifying that, because of the continuing drift apart of the two calendars, I will land in Rhodes 13 days before I take off from Manchester.  Now that’s time travel.  It gives me an additional two weeks in the sun and at no additional cost.

Just don’t mention the moon.

Additional reading (for those who don’t have a life):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar
http://www.adsb.co.uk/date_and_time/calendar_reform_1752/

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This entry was posted in Grey Britain, Reflections, Greece, Health and humour and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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