A Moveable Feast

This weekend is the Easter weekend, and in the Christian tradition, it commemorates the resurrection of Jesus and was originally a culmination of the 40 day period of fasting, prayer and penance known as the Passion of Jesus. Unlike other main events in the liturgical calendar, it is a ‘moveable feast’ and varies over a period ranging from the 22nd March to the 25th April. In principle, Easter falls on the Sunday following the full moon that follows the northern spring equinox, the paschal full moon. Pascha, it can be added, is the Greek and Latin name for Easter. The process for establishing the dates for Easter is known as computes, and stemmed from disagreements dating back to the year 154. The First Council of Nicaea, held in 325, established two rules: independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity. No further details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March, but calculations still vary. The basis for the arguments are extremely complex and suffice it to say that many, many books and theses have been written around the history of the basis of calculating the exact day. One of the side effects of the debate was the formation of the Gregorian Calendar in 1582. For those of you who are of a mathematical/historical/ecclesiastical bent, the process will be fascinating. For the rest of the world: the calendar hangs on the wall.

The name Easter itself is a little misleading, as it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Christian Feast. It stems from the Old English Eōstre, which itself derivates from the Proto-Germanic austrōn, which means ‘dawn’. (Aus, the root, means ‘east’.) There was an Old English Goddess named Ostara, and she was celebrated during ‘Eostermonuth’ or Easter Month – now better known as Eastertide. It was the timing of the feast that coincided with the Paschal Month, and so the names became synonymous. The Venerable Bede wrote of this in the 8th century: “Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.” Easter and the Christian festival were linked in perpetuity.

“’Twas Easter-Sunday. The full-blossomed trees

Filled all the air with fragrance and with joy.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

But what of those strange creatures: the Easter Bunnies? Just where do they fit in with all the above? Once again, not an easy question to ponder. There are many theories – possibly all interlinked – but in essence, the bunny (or hare, more accurately) was seen as a fertility symbol and featured regularly in religious motifs, illuminated manuscripts and paintings of the Virgin and Christ child. The ‘Easter Hare’ first appeared in German Lutheran folklore as a judge – much along the Santa Claus lines – who evaluated whether children were good or bad at the start of the season of Eastertide. The good kids got – you guessed it – Easter eggs as rewards. This was documented as long ago as 1682 by the impressively named German physician and botanist Georg Franck von Franckenau, in a book ‘About Easter Eggs’. (Actually, he called it ‘De ovis paschalibus’, but I’ve translated it as a public service.) Those eggs weren’t chocolate, however: during the Lent fast, eggs weren’t eaten, so they were hardboiled and painted, then consumed when the fast was broken. It’s not known who the genius was who decided that chocolate was a better idea than old boiled eggs, but hopefully, he or she patented the plan: it was a winner.

Here at Waterfront Charters, the Easter weekend is, as can be expected, always busy. The four day weekend sees an influx of visitors from far and wide to the V&A Waterfront, and our cruises are in high demand. Not surprising: with the range on offer we have something for everyone: families, adrenaline seekers, sunset followers and Table Bay and coastline explorers. We recommend that guests book online beforehand; it’s the perfect way to ensure availability and to avoid queues. (And get a discount.)

Whatever your reason for celebrating the Easter Feast, we can assure you of an incredible cruise aboard our luxury boats, and who knows? You might even get a chocolate egg too. But just don’t expect our skippers to dress up as Easter Bunnies. There are some limits…