Easter Trivia

Easter EggsWith the movable feast of Easter upon us, it’s quite a week for the days to have names – Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, followed by Resurrection Sunday and Easter Monday.

It hadn’t really occurred to me to wonder why they were names so, I felt I just knew what they meant, having had the tenets of the resurrection drummed into me as a child in exchange for chocolate eggs.

Starting with the lesser known Spy Wednesday, or Holy Wednesday as it is more usually called. This was the day that Judas set events in motion to betray his boss, the word spy in this instance meaning ambush, or snare.

Next we have Maundy Thursday which for me was simply the day that the queen dished out her Maundy Money to random elderly people. How many men and women are chosen and how much they receive depends on the age of the sovereign, but amounted to £6.40 this year by my reckoning which seems a bit mean and wouldn’t cover the chosen’s bus fare.

However, the word maundy has nothing to do with loose change, but comes from the Latin mandatum or mendicare, and refers to the ritual washing of Jesus’ feet at the Last Supper. (Mendicare would be a good brand name for a chain of high street chiropodists, don’t you think?)

Good Friday wasn’t good at all when you consider what went on up the hill at Golgotha. Some say that it was good in the sense that without the crucifixion there could be no resurrection, but actually the reason it is so called is more straightforward than that. Good in this case is simply another word for holy.

Which takes us to Easter itself which stems from the Old English Eastre or Eostre, the name of the goddess of spring and fertility, following the Christian tradition of hijacking pagan symbols and rituals.

I must confess that I thought that Eostre also gave us the word oestrogen which would make etymological sense if only it were true. But it isn’t.

And finally Easter Monday which once signalled the start of a whole week of secular celebration and feasting, now reduced to just one day dedicated to half-price carpet and furniture sales, gardening and DIY.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

3 comments… Add yours
  • Trevor Rowley 25th March 2016

    I think you omitted Holy/Easter Saturday, Mr P. The Easter (Paschal) candle will be lit at tomorrow evening’s Vigil Mass and the congregation will be encouraged to absorb the cleansing and purifying experiences which this mass will represent.

    • Mr Parrot 26th March 2016

      Only in the sense that I didn’t mention it 🙂 But you’re right – Bright Saturday was too good to miss from my list. Or Black Saturday if you are in the Phillipines.

      • rhymeswithplague 31st March 2016

        The Maundy in Maundy Thursday does come from the Latin word mandatum (you can clearly see the English cognate mandate in there) but it doesn’t mean washing the feet, not directly anyway. It means commandment. It was on his last night with his disciples that Jesus said to them, “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you hav love one to another.” It was about a whole new way of living, of interacting with other people, not merely about the washing of one another’s feet.


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