A Moveable Feast
I have made several attempts in the past to understand why the dates of Easter vary year on year, after all, surely the date of Christ’s death and his resurrection are known and can be commemorated annually? But no, apparently the crucifixion took place on 15 Nisan (Nisan being the first month of the Hebrew ecclesiastical year) which in turn depends on phases of the moon. And here is where the problem starts. Phases of the moon vary season to season and year to year, what’s more, they don’t always obligingly fall on a Sunday which is when the Christian church would like to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
After centuries of contention, which incidentally still continues (the latest meeting of the World Curches Council held in 1997 proposed yet more reforms which were never implemented), the way to calculate Easter is this: find the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring) which is usually the 21st or 22nd March, then look for the next full moon and Easter falls on the Sunday following that ““ simple.
In Spain, Holy Week which this year begins on April 17th, is the most important event in the religious calendar, even more so than Christmas. The week commemorates so many significant events in Christ’s life, from his arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
In Tenerife, as all across Spain, Holy Week is a deeply sombre affair featuring masses, blessings and processions, the most important and reverent of which take place in the former capital of La Laguna. But you’ll find events taking place right across the island in Santa Cruz, Los Realejos, La Orotava, Puerto de la Cruz, Garachico, Arona and Adeje.
Holy Friday (Good Friday) is the most solemn of the events as the Church mourns the death of Christ. In La Laguna there are two processions featuring hooded penitents who wear the traditional capirote, or hooded conical hats to hide their faces, and barefooted monks whose ankles and wrists are manacled. The first of the processions, the Magna, leaves the Church of the Concepción in La Laguna at 5pm while the haunting Silent Procession takes place by torchlight at 9pm with the centre of the city plunged into darkness as a sign of respect. In Adeje, one of the biggest Good Friday events on the island is staged with The Passion, a re-enactment of the crucifixion involving some 300 participants and thousands of onlookers.
Easter Eggs and Bunnies
With Easter perpetually tied to the advent of spring, the humble egg has long been a feature of celebrations. From the use of hard boiled eggs dipped in salt water in the Jewish Passover Seder to the pagan celebrations of fertility and reproduction, the egg is a powerful symbol of the arrival of spring and nature’s awakening from the slumbers of winter. The association of re-birth and the dawning of the light that stems from both the religious significance of the resurrection of Christ and the pagan celebrations of spring also brings the bunny rabbit into play, their prowess in the reproduction business being a well established fact.
The chocolate Easter egg made its first appearance in the early 19th century but without the know-how to separate cocoa butter from the cocoa bean, using moulds to create the egg shape was a lengthy and lumpy affair. It wasn’t until the Dutch invention of a press in 1878 that chocolate moulds first appeared. Naturally, the Cadbury Brothers were pioneers in the industry, their first chocolate Easter eggs being made from dark chocolate and filled with sugared almonds. When they began adding decoration in the form of chocolate piping and marzipan flowers, the fashion took off and by 1893 there were 19 different lines in the Cadbury’s Easter Eggs range. It wasn’t until the turn of the century in 1905 that milk chocolate was launched with the Cadbury’s MilkO Chocolate. Today, milk chocolate Easter Eggs dominate the market.
Incidentally, if all this talk of Cadbury’s Easter Eggs has whetted your appetite for your favourite egg, your best bet for hunting down a real chocolate Easter Egg on Tenerife is to head to one of the out of town large supermarket chains where you’ll find a small selection of familiar names.