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HOLLENBECK: Easter celebrations in the South meant new clothes, family gatherings

April 11, 2012

Easter is a defining moment in a Southern girl's upbringing.
When I was growing up, it meant a new dress for Sunday School and church and family events that followed.
This was an especially big thing for little girls in small towns, like Cotton Plant, where the Methodist Church was the center of our social life at Easter time and pretty much year-round.
Picking out the Easter frock was exciting. Oftentimes it was cold and I'd freeze in that year's selection, which frequently was sleeveless. Regardless of the temperature, I wore the selected dress. A little thing like a cold day couldn't sway me from the designated apparel.
Easter is also the date from which set-in-stone fashion rules evolve, such as the proverbial directives about white shoes, white linen frocks, etc.
Fashion gurus today contend that some of the old maxims no longer apply, but try telling that to dyed-in-the-wool Girls Raised In The South.
When you've had it drilled into your psyche that it's just plain tacky to wear white on your feet before Easter, that maxim stays for a long time. Like a lifetime.
I no longer get a new dress for Easter Sunday, but that's out of my personal consideration for the many little girls who would like one and their families can't afford it. I'm not trying to portray myself as some sort of saint, but it's just one small stand I take today for the children of the world.
The rules of dressing can be obvious or baffling and some folks, particularly people who didn't experience Southern raising, just don't get the policies about white shoes. Southerners, for the most part, take them to heart.
Some of this seems silly, even to me, because of the weather in the South. It may be warmer on a January day than it is in May, but the calendar reigns nonetheless. And I won't wear white shoes in the wintertime regardless of the temperature. I'd be afraid I'd trip and break my foot because Mamma would be "tsk-tsking" me all the way from her heavenly home.
In my storehouse of memories there's one glaring exception regarding white on the feet. These would be the white go-go boots from the 1970s. These were worn with purple velvet hot pants in the dead of winter.
My legs nearly froze, but after all, it was "the style." Thankfully, it passed quickly.
Youngsters typically love Easter because they enjoy dyeing Easter eggs and then hunting them.
I loved all the years of raising my children, but one thing I don't miss is the Easter egg dye. That's an activity for people with artistic creativity and I don't possess it.
I have musical talent — I guess I could have sung to the eggs — but the ones I dyed never looked that great. I always got more dye on me than I did on the eggs.
My daughter, with her elementary schoolteacher genes shaping place, quickly took over this activity and I was more than grateful.
Someone asked me to explain why Easter is a movable event, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar.
In order to explain it, I got on the Internet, where it notes that the First Council of Nicaea established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the northern hemisphere's vernal equinox. Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on March 21 (even though the equinox occurs, astronomically speaking, on March 20 in most years), and the Full Moon is not necessarily the astronomically correct date.
The date of Easter therefore varies between March 22 and April 25.
Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar whose March 21 corresponds, during the 21st century, to April 3 in the Gregorian Calendar, in which calendar the celebration of Easter therefore varies between April 4 and May 8.
OK. There it is. If you can figure out when Easter's coming based on all that, you're a lot smarter than me.
I recommend just buying a good calendar and checking the date.
And by the way, Happy Easter.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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