Easter Unlimited

(Poppies and orchids)

This year part of the world – that is most countries in the west and south of Europe along with other catholic countries – celebrated Easter on April 6, while other parts of the world, that’s the east of Europe and other orthodox countries, will enjoy this religious celebration on April 13. Why? Because the leaders of churches, just like politicians, can be as stubborn as donkeys.

First of all, I wonder why Easter should always be on a different date: exactly which Sunday (thankfully it ‘is’ a Sunday each year) it will be calculated each year by an extremely complicated schedule, which involves the vernal equinox, the full moon and the calendar. Differences already start with this calendar: the Catholic Church uses the Gregorian calendar, while the Orthodox Church still maintains the Julian calendar. But Passover and Nisan are also part of the calculation. By the Catholic Church calculations Easter can happen before Passover, while for the Orthodox Church this is an impossibility, because Easter can never fall before the date Christ was crucified and resurrected.

And so it is that only once in every four years that both Easters can be celebrated on one and the same day. The World Organization for Churches has tried to have the two churches agree to make the celebration on a same date, but since a congress in 1997 nothing has been decided. They also tried to arrange to have Easter each year on a fixed day, like the second Sunday of April, but also this proposition never met the approval of the two different churches.

Easter is the biggest religious celebration in Greece and after such a long and cold winter everybody longs for it, because then this dark season gets left behind and the warm months will not be far away. On the islands and other tourist regions, this festivity also means the start of the summer season. The Greeks swarm out all over Greece to celebrate Easter together with their family and friends and so the islands will receive the first guests of the year.

On Lesvos it’s not only Greeks visiting their families, the month of April is also popular with birdwatchers who come in great numbers to take photographs of rare flying species and the orchid lovers also seem to be visiting the island more and more in order to see these exotic flowers.

But I still cannot imagine there will ever be a summer. Even though the sun now regularly shines and the sky is more and more painted blue, nights remain treacherously cold and the wearing of thick jackets, scarves and even bonnets is no luxury.

Birdwatchers are saying that this year fewer migrant birds have been using the island for a break because of the prolonged winter weather. The first brave tourists must have had it pretty cold and I hope they understand that preparing hotels and guesthouses for the season has been heavily delayed, because it was impossible to work in the gardens thanks to all the rain and cold, and that lick of paint that is needed has had to wait too because of the dampness.

But the swallows, the traditional Greek heralds of spring, are back on the island and skim through the sky while twittering as if they never left. It seems that they gave the impetus for the spring, because suddenly nature has wakened up and there has been an explosion of flowers. In my garden, the wild grasses and flowers do as they please and are towering towards the tops of those trees that survived the winter. Yes, sadly there is not much left of the garden. Lots of plants died during the (for Lesvos) unusually cold winter. The garden shops for sure will do good business this year.

Not only the birds and plants had problems. Last year Sifis, a crocodile, became a new tourist attraction on Crete. He was found in a reservoir and proved impossible to catch. This month they found his lifeless body and they presume that the severe winter was the cause of his death.

In orchid country it’s a bit different. For months these frivolous flowers remained underground in order not to catch a cold and now they too have also decided that it is time to flower. They are doing that in big numbers, despite the fact that some species normally should be waiting a bit to unfold their flowers. Who knows, they might – just like the churches’ calculating the date for Easter – be using an elaborated system for when they are allowed to bloom, because there is no system to be found that determines why one species is too early or the other too late this year.

For flower lovers and for orchid hunters it would be nice if all species flowered each year at a same date. But nature has his own life and schedule and does what it deems right. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches also just do what they want, but unlike nature, they could make deals. Would it not be nice if they could put aside their stubbornness, so that we get fixed Easter Days and that all people wanting to celebrate Easter can do that on the same day?