Did you know that New Year’s Day used to be on Easter Sunday?
Although the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar declared the January 1 as the start of the New Year in the first century BC, this was abolished in 587.
In the Middle Ages in Western Europe, New Year’s day moved around quite a bit.For a time it coincided with Easter, but it was all rather confusing really.
In 1582, Pope Gregory restored January 1 as New Year’s Day, but it wasn’t until 1752 that the British adopted the reformed calendar.
This meant that in England in 1751, New Year began on March 25 and lasted for just 282 days before 1752 began on January 1... Are you still with me?
Well, there were good reasons for Christians trying to hold on to the synchronization of Easter and New Year.
At the start of a New Year, we are given to thinking that things could be better – a new start, a new resolve for a better way of living or of putting behind us difficult things from the previous year and moving on.
Easter is very much about new beginnings, a potential new way of living and putting behind us difficult things as we look forward with hope. Some of the stories and traditions around Easter help us see that.
Although the Easter bunny has no mention in the Bible (unsurprisingly perhaps), rabbits are prolific in their procreating and were an ancient symbol of fertility and new life.
The Easter bunny legend began with a story about a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in the garden, which was published in 1680. And the tradition remains today. Eggs too are an ancient symbol of new life—it’s not hard to see why.
And so the Easter chicks also emerged from those eggs and became part of the traditions associated with Easter.
Most Easter eggs today are filled with sweets or cream fondant, but the ordinary hollow chocolate egg reminds us of the empty tomb that faced Jesus’ disciples on the first Easter Day.
The emptiness reminds us of the resurrection—the tomb was empty.
Easter is very much about new life – the account of the horrific crucifixion of Jesus followed by the resurrection on Easter Day has spoken into the lives of countless numbers of people through the ages.
But many people don’t stop to think— in the modern world we are often too caught up with making sense of life simply in the experiences that face us daily.
This Easter, as you enjoy your chocolate eggs, or a few days off work, or meeting up with family, perhaps the symbols around you – the chicks, the rabbit, the eggs – might give you pause for thought.
Happy Easter! Happy New Year!