One rushes to write parody, or spoof things with a great ‘gotcha’ surprise piece, on April Fools’ Day.
But today is the day to mock the noncompliant and naive. It was the first Modern holiday.
Many cultures begin the enumeration of each year after the equinox – when days and nights are the same length. Easter is by definition the first holiday of that year – merely the first Sunday after the full moon after the equinox. That’s all there is to understand when Easter falls.
It was decided, by higher authority, that the calendar be reformed in Europe. One can pause to think of three ways of ordering a society:
- The rules arise in eternal tradition.
- The rules arise from the greatest of men.
- The rules arise sponaneously from the body of the culture, its people.
The Julian calendar had been fixed by the Roman authority; its reform, the Gregorian calendar, by the Pope, Gregory XIII. The reform dealt with the drift of the traditional calendar date of Easter – March 21 – away from the Nicean & Pesach dating of Easter.
Note that April 1 is about 10 days after the traditional Easter. It was considered the start of the year, spring of the Easter holidays. Christmas is a week before the modern New Year, a similar spacing.
In the middle of the “Enlightenment,” there came three centuries of squabble about the “real” calendar. A calendar is intended to divide the solar year into equal-sized chunks. As the principle of degree of angle was proposed, the Earth steps about the Sun about 1 degree for every day it makes a full rotation, about 360 degrees. In a day, the Earth rotates 360 degrees; in a year, it revolves 360 days. But they are not linked, as the ancients wishes.
The calendar was set up to approximately fix the vernal equinox on March 21. That leaves the autumnal equinox September, about the 21st, and the solstices in December and June. Christmas has been set, by fiat, to December 25; to allow it to progress as a fixed number of days before Easter would make the numerical wobble a lot. Easter waggles at least 36 days in its span.
The new year was fixed as January 1 in the Gregorian calendar. Then the mind games began, which were not resolved until 1812.
If you liked the Catholic Church, you went with Gregory; opposed, and you stayed with the Julian. A propaganda struggle broke out across the world to decide which calendar was “right.” It died down when the Gregorian was noted to be more accurate, and was incrementally modified to increase its accuracy.
God had nothing to do with it.
The Catholics would jibe the Protestants as April Fools. They were called slaves to superstition; and vice-versa. IF liquor was involved, the noses began to be bloodied. Neither could be right, for they were speculating on something that was a human approximation. The disagreement ended when Switzerland, the bastion of the Protestant revolution, caved in and recognized the Gregorian calendar in the 1800’s.
Spring, of course, is a time when the flock become a little wild. A good holiday of boisterousness cropped up. In central Pennsylvania, the phrase for an agitated depression is being ‘rammy‘ – that’s how people get in the ICU. Simple confusion is verhoodelt – being rammy is like a ram in springtime.
So we are all getting to be April Fools. Spread the message.