Let’s start with a quiz. Name as many Christmas movies as you can in ten seconds.
Easy. White Christmas, Home Alone, Love Actually, The Muppet Christmas Carrol, The Santa Clause, Elf, Trading Places, Arthur Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th Street, and the greatest of them all, Bad Santa, starring Billy Bob Thornton as someone you never want to see coming down your chimney.
And you just know I’ve left out about five hundred more.
Now, name as many Easter movies as you can in ten seconds! Eh ….. ![Pause]
If you racked your brain hard enough you might come up The Long Good Friday and Easter Parade, the quintessential Easter movie that starred Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, with music—including the title song and’ Steppin’ Out with my Baby’—by Irving Berlin. A piece of utter trivia, Gene Kelly was supposed to have taken the lead male part but he injured an ankle playing volleyball and persuaded Astaire to come out of retirement and star opposite Garland. It was, surprisingly, the biggest grossing film either of them ever made.
From a religious perspective Easter may be just as important as Christmas, but it’s a harder sell as far as the public is concerned when the only payoff is chocolate.
It probably doesn’t help that we can never be quite sure exactly when it’s going to happen. Good Friday, for example, can fall anytime between 20 March and 23 April. They don’t call it a moveable feast for nothing. Easter Sunday is scheduled to fall on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. So, in Ireland it could be midwinter or high summer. For the record, two historians have worked out that the very first Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion, fell on 3 April.
Given what we’re actually commemorating—a public execution—where does the day get its name? Exactly what was so good about Jesus Christ being nailed to a cross by the Romans? One theory has it that the name is a corruption of ‘God’s Friday’. The more commonly accepted notion, of course, is that the ‘good’ comes from its observation as a holy day in the western Christian calendar. Eastern orthodox Catholics go one better and call it ‘Great Friday’. Some Christian denominations refer to it as Black Friday—though that has subsequently been appropriated by Mammon as a shopping day of observation—or indeed Sorrowful Friday, which is current in Germany. Others, however, don’t hold much store by Good Friday and honour Good Wednesday instead, the day most Christians refer to as Spy Wednesday.
Now, although organised religions don’t exactly encourage superstition there are a number of piseogs related to today. It is said, for example, that an egg laid on Good Friday will never go bad, Apparently a child born today, who is then baptised on Easter Sunday, has the gift of healing. So have a good think about that if you’ve just given birth, but don’t dally. Your window of opportunity to produce the next great faith healer closes in two days.
Bread or cakes, or indeed hot cross buns, baked on this day are said not go mouldy. And, by the way, if you let hot cross buns go hard they are supposed to protect your house against fire. So, if you’re listening in California or Australia, start baking. The planting of crops, however, is not advisable, as an old saw has it that no iron should enter the ground on Good Friday. So, please step away from that spade or garden fork, and don’t drop any iron supplement tablets either.
The one I like best of all the superstitions is the idea that having your hair cut on Good Friday is a sure fire way of avoiding toothaches for the rest of the year! Trying teasing out the logic there. A barber with a grudge against a dentist probably came up with that one.
But, to return to our first mentioned Good Friday superstition, that an egg laid today will never go bad. Why don’t we engage in some interactive radio? Let’s try an experiment. If you have hens, when you collect the eggs today, leave one in the coop. Don’t touch it for, say, twelve months, then get back to me in about a year after you’ve cracked it open and we’ll see whether that’s fake history or not.