Tuesday Trivia: Why Easter isn’t observed on the same date each year...and some other Holy Week facts

J. H. Osborne • Mar 27, 2018 at 1:07 PM

Holy Week, a Christian observance of Jesus’ life leading to his crucifixion and resurrection, began two days ago (Palm Sunday) and continues through April 1 — Easter Sunday.

For this week’s Tuesday Trivia, a brief look at some Holy Week facts:

• Easter does not occur on the same date each year because it is set (in Western Christian churches) to fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

• Palm Sunday, always the Sunday prior to Easter, marks Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem as crowds paved the way with palm branches.

• Most denominations celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. That’s not so for the days in between. Some denominations observe each day of Holy Week in some way, others celebrate only Good Friday, and still others celebrate Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. 

• Maundy Thursday commemorates the “Last Supper,” a gathering of Jesus and his 12 disciples during which Jesus showed humility by washing the feet of his disciples and then gave them a new commandment to love one another as he had loved them (John 13:34). “Maundy" comes from the Latin mandatum ("commandment"). Some congregations include foot-washing in their Maundy Thursday services. 

• Good Friday is a solemn day when services focus on Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and death on the cross.

• Easter Sunday often includes sunrise services. The day is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

Although Holy Week is a religious observation celebrated by Christians, its economic and cultural impact is broader.

According to information released by the National Retail Federation and the National Confectioners Association:

• Easter spending is expected to total $18.2 billion this year, down from a record $18.4 billion in 2017 but still the second-highest level on record.

• 81 percent of Americans will celebrate the holiday and spend an average of $150 per person, down from last year’s record of $152.

• Consumers will spend $5.7 billion on food (purchased by 87 percent of shoppers), $3.2 billion on clothing (48 percent), $2.9 billion on gifts (61 percent), $2.6 billion on candy (89 percent), $1.3 billion on flowers (39 percent), $1.1 billion on decorations (42 percent) and $780 million on greeting cards (46 percent).

• 60 percent will visit family and friends, 58 percent will cook a holiday meal, 51 percent will go to church and 17 percent will go to a restaurant. The Easter Bunny is expected to have a busy holiday season: 35 percent of consumers will participate in an Easter egg hunt and 16 percent will open gifts. In addition to traditional holiday events, some consumers will pursue more leisurely activities: 45 percent will watch TV, 11 percent will shop online, 9 percent will shop in a store and 8 percent will go to a movie.

• When it comes to Easter treats, 55 percent of Americans say chocolate eggs and bunnies are their favorite, while jelly beans and candy-coated eggs are nearly tied for second.

Sources: www.umc.org; the National Retail Federation, the National Confectioners Association.