Oh dear, those nice people at Tesco have got into trouble for building an advertising slogan around Good Friday. ‘Good Friday’ is, it is said, is a holy day commemorating the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Hmm. It’s not an anniversary because famously, Easter is a ‘moveable’ feast (that means it happens on a different date each year folks), but why is that? Christians are quite content to celebrate Christ’s birth on 25th December each year, so why can’t we have a fixed day for Easter, a far more significant day in the Christian calendar?
Easter is, of course, related to the Jewish Passover, and Passover is calculated from the Lunar calendar and jumps about around the months of March and April. As if that were not enough, Easter Day has to fall on a Sunday. In the sixteenth century, Christian churches in different parts of Europe were celebrating Easter on different days due to disputes as to how exactly to compute the date. The calendar reform of 1582 sorted that out, but the date (and month) is subject to change every year.
And this starts me thinking about the whole business of anniversaries. What does it mean that a birthday or other anniversary occurs on the same day each year? Since the Earth orbits the sun in 365 1/4 days – approximately – after 365 days, the planet is still one quarter of a day away from the place in the orbit where it was the previous year … A true anniversary can only happen once every four years, so those born on the 29th February are uniquely placed; for each of their birthdays, the Earth really is in almost the same position – with reference to the cosmos – as it was on their last birthday.
So where does all of this leave Tesco? Christians were annoyed with their advert (‘Good Friday just got better’) but I cannot find it within me to get too upset. After all, what does the average person in this country associate with Easter? Christ’s crucifixion? His resurrection? Er no, two extra days off work and the opportunity to scoff a lot of chocolate. The Christian faiths really ought to concentrate their efforts on filling their churches, and come up with a viable philosophy for the 21st century to justify their existence.
My friend Chris, an inveterate Grauniad reader (well, someone has to do it), alerts me to a very interesting piece on Box Tunnel published this week in said organ. Due to maintenance work, the tunnel was closed on April 9th, and GWR engineers posted at both ends of the tunnel were able to see if the rising sun really does shine through the tunnel on the morning of Brunel’s birthday.
Matthew Golton, commercial development director at GWR, stationed at the western end (the end remote from the sun), reported: ‘We could see the sun had risen, but we weren’t getting a full-on sunshine through the tunnel.’ Well no, you wouldn’t Matthew, because as my analysis shows – published elsewhere on this website – the sun does not shine through the tunnel on Brunel’s birthday … but it does shine through a few days earlier on someone else’s birthday…
I sent a copy of my article – viewable here http://www.mirlibooks.com/isambards-gift.html – to the Guardian reporter who wrote the story. No response naturally, although I did, a few weeks ago, get a very nice reply from Michael Portillo to whom I also sent a copy in view of his current series on railways.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs