Introducing “Mike’s Historical Half Truths” to Optical Cortex.
Part of what makes AREA 17 brilliant is our international mix of nationalities and office locations. I love the differences of cultures and ideas and what that brings to creative discussions. Something that always interested me is that different countries have different public holidays. Sometimes they have the same days but for different reasons. And so, I began researching some of these public holidays and I decided to share what I’d learned in a series of emails to all-staff.
The emails are titled “Half Truths” because I’m not a historian, I’m a developer and my interest isn’t purely in facts but in engaging my personal passions of learning something new and making bad jokes. I’m also very British. Researching these emails it quickly occurred to me that its nearly impossible to read any consistent narrative of any historical event and so I try and give a general gist, from a certain point of view, with a little humour, satire, in-jokes and commentary thrown in. And sometimes I just wilfully conflate and confuse subjects.
My interest in history was sparked by the ‘Mark Steel Lectures‘. Mark Steel is a working class writer, comedian and broadcaster and his way of delivering history with a mix of comedy, opinion and satire of modern times really appealed to me, perhaps especially because I’m also working class. Many thanks to him for inspiring me to learn.
Lets begin, with Easter…
Wanted to speak to the French A17ers today? Tough, because its Lundi de Pâques (Easter Monday). You can still speak to me because I’m in NYC and they don’t bother with Easter here in America.
Welcome to another edition of Mike’s Historical Half Truths!
The Easter weekend begins with “Good Friday” in the UK, another one the Americans don’t do. Really I’m beginning to think Americans are no fun at all. Every year, when your calendar notifies you that its “Good Friday” you get to say, “ah, good, Friday” and LOL.
The Romans, they were no fun either – especially to Jesus. “Good Friday” is a bizarre name given it is the day Jesus was crucified. In other languages/cultures they do have a more negative name for the day; in German for example its named Karfreitag which I think means more like “sorrowful Friday”. It may just be that it was called “God Friday” and somehow its been changed over time. Or, just some dark British humour, not sure.
Either way, the terrible events for Jesus had to take place on the Friday in order for him to resurrect on Sunday and so bring the joy of Easter. Christians see it that they’re only able to appreciate the good news after they understand the bad news.
Is what I say every Saturday morning, only with different emphasis – “Oh good, Saturday”.
Typically this is a day where I try and go for a longer run and wash my car. Nothing to do with Easter though. Unless I do these things on an Easter weekend.
Good Sunday Easter Sunday
This history of “Easter” is long and I’ll start by saying your particular beliefs may alter how you see it; so I’m going to glance over the common ones as they’re all pretty interesting.
The most obvious is the aforementioned resurrection of JC. Some Christians would argue that he actually resurrected on a Monday, the 3rd day after his crucifixion and not a Sunday, and some would be fine with Sunday but would rather we called it Resurrection Sunday to distance it from the chocolate eggs and Easter bunny. The act of resurrection cements Jesus’s status as the Son of God and a symbol of eternal salvation. As a non-believer in this story, it is fun to think “but what if?” because it would be some proper X-Men Wolverine next level shit if it was real.
The resurrection gives the much older Passover meal a deeper meaning as it was the meal in which Jesus prepared himself for crucifixion. It is where the cup of wine being Christ’s blood thing started. Easter is the end of Lent and so Easter can also refer to the whole 40 days and the resurrection weekend. If you gave up something for Lent, you can tuck back in now. The 50 days after this weekend are known as Eastertide, where Christians celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
The religious story is deep and complex and sadly I’m writing this while procrastinating on NEJM on a Sunday morning in the office and so I haven’t the brain capacity to go deeper.
The crucifix is (probably) named and shaped after the Crux, or better known as The Southern Cross. A constellation in the southern sky that forms the shape of the cross shape that we all associate with the Christian Church. It is no longer visible in the northern hemisphere because of the precession of the equinoxes, which lowered the stars below our southern horizons at night. It features on the flags of Australia 🇦🇺 and New Zealand 🇳🇿. Wait, did I get those emoji flags the right way around?
Easter is a moveable feast, as it doesn’t fall on a fixed date but instead follows the lunar cycle. Easter usually follows the March/spring equinox, unless this day is Passover, in which case its moved by 7 days. Not all churches follow this rule, many don’t agree and they may change their opinions in the future.
This lunisolar nature of Easter and the easter eggs and easter bunny feed into the other history of Easter; in that its a Pagan spring celebration of new life. And given the commercialisation of Easter, this alternate history is one that many Christians are ok with as a Christian holiday shouldn’t be seen as simply just a commercial opportunity (um, like Christmas?). The name “Easter” may come from Eostre, a goddess of spring and fertility. And then via German “esostarum” to Easter apparently in a translation error. Pascua (Spanish) and Paques (French) are derived from Pascha/Pasch in Greek/Latin, or Passover. Pascha now more means Easter than Passover and Pacha is an Ibiza nightclub.
The resurrection myth isn’t limited only to Christians – its actually pretty common. A Summerian goddess, Inanna was hung on a stake and resurrected and the Egyptian Horus resurrected. Also following modern Christian holiday dates, the Roman Mithras was born on Christmas day and his followers celebrated on the spring Equinox. The Greek god, Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility was resurrected and I can easily see why; they’d didn’t want to do without their wine.
Ugh, Monday Easter Monday
Also known as “Bright Monday” or “Renewal Monday”. Christian or not, this is the start of better times as the weather gets warmer, days get longer and we feel brighter and more alive ether because of this or because of JC’s sacrifice. At least for us in the northern hemisphere. The ancient world doesn’t lend well to our friends in the southern hemisphere – for them its the end of summer but still cause for celebration as its respite from the hot weather.
All kinds of things are done on Easter Monday around the world – Easter egg races, special breakfasts, picnics etc. In Ireland they pause to remember the people who died in the Easter Rising.
But, my favourite has to be the people of Guyana who fly kites.
Also published on Medium.