Happy Hocktide! Do you have your feudal taxes and winter rents ready to be paid to your liege tomorrow?  As you may have gathered from that rhetorical question, there has been a long association with Easter and taxes.  It is an association that is most noticeable nowadays when Easter happens to fall near the annual income tax deadline.

Having an Easter deadline for taxes is an interesting choice.  Obviously in the middle ages when not everyone had easy access or even totally clear understanding about how a calendar worked, picking a day like the day after Easter as a tax deadline has the advantage of being a memorable date.  It is a also a date that has an informal warning about the approaching deadline in that the start of Lent marks a countdown to Easter.


About how much weight can a warhorse carry?

A. 500 pounds
B. 750 pounds
C. 1000 pounds

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!

Easter is the oldest Christian holiday.  Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Easter was observed right away.  Christmas did not become widespread until 300s.  (More on that in another post).

Some Easter “fun facts”:
-The earliest written reference to the Easter Bunny dates from the 1570s. (A German book that technically is referring to the Easter Hare).
-In the 1890s the first Easter candy was sold in the United States.
-The tradition of eating ham on Easter dates back to the 11th century
-Easter has been celebrated since about 30 AD, Christmas was not widely celebrated among Christians until closer to 300 AD
-King George II originated the custom of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah.
-In Italy it is customary to buy new church clothes to look your best on Easter Sunday. This custom again relates to a time when many new converts would be joining the church on Easter Sunday and would be dressed in new white clothes.
-In Mexico fireworks are part of the Easter celebration.


True.  In Europe there are folk customs associated with bonfires on Holy Saturday.


This year in 2017, Easter falls on April 16th, right around the American income tax deadline of April 15th.  Was Easter associated with tax deadlines in the middle ages?

A. Yes

B. No

Holy Saturday

In answer to yesterday’s question, Good Friday is considered a mournful day.

Holy Saturday is known as Great Saturday in the Eastern church.  There is a mixture of imagery for Holy Saturday.  In German it is known as mournful Saturday.  Among Middle Eastern Christians it is known as the Saturday of Light.  In the early church Holy Saturday was a day of fasting but not a day of worship in observance of Christ being in the tomb.  However, Holy Saturday was a popular day for new members to be baptized into the church (or during the Easter vigil service held Saturday night/Sunday morning).  In the days before electricity it was often quite a spectacular view to see a city from the distance as all of the homes became lit with candles in preparation for the Easter vigil.


True or False.  In many parts of Europe, there a folk customs for lighting bonfires on Holy Saturday?


Good Friday

The Friday before Easter is known as Good Friday in the West.  The Eastern churches know the day as Preparation Friday.


Maundy Thursday is associated with the color green in Germany.  There was a tradition of wearing green vestments on Maundy Thursday in Germany and that tradition may have led to the nickname for Maundy Thursday of Green Thursday.  The words “green” and “mourn” are similar in old German grun (green) and grunen (to mourn).  It is possible that Maundy Thursday had a more mournful nickname that became more colorful because of a corruption of the old German.


Is Good Friday a happy day or a mournful day?

What is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday of Holy Week, it celebrates the observance of the Last Supper.  The name Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin word Mandatum from which the word mandate is derived.  Maundy Thursday refers to the great commandment or mandate.   “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)


Miserere was a Lenten composition that was kept unpublished by the Vatican so that it might be used exclusively in the Sistine Chapel until young Mozart transcribed the piece from memory after hearing it only once in 1769.  Pope Clement XIV was impressed at Mozart’s skill and ordered that Miserere be published.


What color is associated with Maundy Thursday in Germany?

A. Blue

B. Green

C. Red

Holy Week

Miserere is a famous piece of music that is often heard during Holy Week.


Palm Sunday is also known as Blossom Sunday.  This nickname comes from the old tradition in many churches of blessing flowers on Palm Sunday, in addition to blessing palm branches.


Which famous composer memorized and transcribed Miserere after hearing it only once?

A. Bach

B. Handel

C. Mozart

More about Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is called Pascua Florida in Spanish.  This name was originally applied to just Palm Sunday but the usage spread to Holy Week, including Easter.  Florida was sighted by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon on Easter Sunday 1513 and given the name of Florida in honor of Holy Week.


Willow branches were often used as a local substitute for palm branches for Palm Sunday.  Olive branches and yew branches are other local substitutes.


What other name also refers to Palm Sunday?

A. Blossom Sunday

B. Donkey Sunday

C. King Sunday


Palm Sunday

Today (April 9th, 2017) is Palm Sunday.  Palm Sunday has been observed since at least the 300s.  The ceremony of the blessing of palms dates back to the 800s.  Palm Sunday commemorates the events of Matthew 21:1-11.  (Jesus entering Jerusalem to “Hosannas” and a crowd of people waving palm branches).  To answer yesterday’s question, The palm in Palm Sunday refers to palm branches.


In the days before advancements in technology made it possible to have palm branches everywhere, what local plant was often substituted for palm branches on Palm Sunday?

A. Ash

B. Pine

C. Willow

More about Ukrainian eggs

“Ukrainian” eggs are also a folk craft in Poland.


Ukrainian eggs are decorated by melting wax.  Different colors of wax are dripped on the eggs.  Dye is also used to give the eggs color.  The eggs are made by alternating coats of wax with coats of dye.  Wax “locks in” a particular color of dye.

The eggs can also be made just by melting different colors of wax on them.  The traditional method involves melting white wax for each wax layer.  The wax is applied with a stylus.


What do the palms is Palm Sunday refer to?

A. Palm branches

B. Palms of hands

C. Palmyra

A brief bit about Ukrainian eggs

Traditionally Ukrainian eggs are decorated by women during Lent.  It is a very slow and detailed process to decorate the eggs.  More about Ukrainian eggs tomorrow after the answer to today’s question.


The Greek’s use red as the predominant color for Easter eggs.  (Other areas where the Eastern church is common do as well).  In the Eastern church context red Easter eggs symbolize the blood of Christ.


What gives Ukrainian Easter eggs their distinctive color and patterns?

A. Dye

B. Paint

C. Wax

Yet more Easter Egg lore

While decorating Easter eggs is common in northern and central Europe, before the widespread availability of food coloring, there were many different ways to decorate Easter eggs.  In some places eggs were decorated with simple vegetable based dyes.  In Austria, ferns and plants are carefully attached to the eggs before the eggs are dyed.  After the eggs have been dyed the plants are removed and eye-catching leaf/plant patterns remain on the egg in white.


Around 1300 King Edward I of England gave out more than 450 gilded Easter Eggs to his staff.


What color of Easter Egg is most common Greece?

A. Blue

B. Green

C. Red

More about Easter eggs

The ancient Persians used to exchange eggs at the spring equinox.  Eggs have long been a symbol of fertility and springtime.

Eggs can symbolize the Resurrection with new life coming out of a tomb.  (A chicken hatching from an egg)


Easter eggs were common in northern Europe and less so in southern Europe.  As a result, Easter eggs are not common in South America and Mexico but are common in the United States and Canada.


Which king gave away more than 450 Easter eggs covered in gold leaf to royal household staff members in 1307?

A. Edward I

B. George I

C. William I

Easter symbols: lambs

The answer to yesterday’s question is lamb.  Lambs are symbols of Easter.  Jesus’ sacrifice at Easter is often represented by a lamb.   (Jesus as a sacrificial lamb).  This important symbolism has meant both good things and bad things for lambs at Easter.  It is traditional for lambs to be blessed at Easter.  Lambs are sometimes eaten at Easter.  Fortunately for the lambs there has been a more recent tradition of making pastries in the shape of lambs instead.  In the past it was considered to be a sign of good fortune to see a lamb at Easter by chance encounter.


In what part of Europe did Easter eggs become popular?

A. East

B. North

C. South

D. West

Lenten music

“Lenten Hymns: Most of the medieval Lenten songs are translations or adaptations of Latin hymns used in the Divine Office. The poem of Saint Gregory then Great (604), Audi benige conditor (Kind Maker of the World, O Hear), is recited during Vespers in Lent. It inspired many popular Lenten songs during the Middle Ages. In the English language alone, more than twenty translations are known. Another hymn ascribed to Saint Gregory is Clarum decus jejunii (The Sacred Time of Lenten Fast). An English translation, with a melody by Johann
Sebastian Bach (1750) may be found in the Protestant Episcopal hymnal.~ Other Latin hymns include Ex more docti mystico (By Mystical Tradition Taught), which is recited daily at the Office of the Matins; its authorship is also ascribed to Saint
Gregory. O
sol salutis (O Jesus, Saving Sun of Grace), by an unknown author of the seventh or eighth century, is used at the Lauds during Lent.  A favorite modern Lenten hymn is the poem by Claudia F. Hernaman (1898), “Lord, who throughout these forty days for us didst fast and pray” which was first published in her Child’s Book of Praise in England, 1873″

-From The Easter Book by Francis X. Weiser


The last time that the Western church celebrated Easter on April Fools Day was in the 1950s. (1956).  The last time that the Orthodox church (following the Julian calendar) celebrated on April Fools Day was 1996.

In contrast Easter will be celebrated on April 16th this year and it was last on that date in 2006.


Which of the following is a symbol of Easter?

A. Calf

B. Dove

C. Lamb

Holy Week is getting closer

Easter is two weeks from today.  In the upcoming week posts will focus on some Easter and Lenten music as well as some additional details about Holy Week which starts with next Sunday (April 9) with Palm Sunday.


I played an April Fool’s Day joke on myself yesterday.  I forgot about the Julian calendar.  So the correct answer is not 3 but 6.  On the Gregorian calendar, Easter will fall on April 1st in 2018, 2029, and 2040 in the 21st century.  On the Julian calendar, (Orthodox church) Easter falls on April 1st in 2058, 2069, and 2080.


When was the last time that Easter fell on April 1st on the Gregorian calendar

A. 1950s

B. 1970s

C. 1990s