Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter this week

Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. It occurs during the spring, in March or April; the method for determining the date of Easter Sunday is complex, based on lunisolar calendars. Eastern and western churches calculate using different calendars. Easter can fall on 35 possible dates — between March 22 and April 25 — and this year for all is April 24, almost as late as possible.

Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Sunday. The chronology of his death and resurrection is variously interpreted to be between AD 26 and 36, traditionally 33.

The Easter celebration comes after Lent, a 40-day preparatory period of fasting, prayer and penance. The last week, Holy Week, begins with Palm Sunday remembering Christ's triumphal entrance into Jerusalem and continues with Holy Thursday honoring the Last Supper (his last Passover seder), Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death, and Easter Vigil Saturday, a commemoration of the day that Jesus lay in his tomb. Easter Sunday is a joyous celebration of church song and family feasting.

Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar.

Easter customs vary across the Christian world, but decorating Easter eggs is a common motif. In the Western world, customs such as egg hunting and the Easter Bunny extend from the domain of church, and often have a secular character.

Happpy Easter!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Down to the wire

Midnight tonight is the deadline for filing your 2010 federal income tax returns. The due date usually is April 15 (or the next weekday if on a weekend), but since Washington, D.C., observed Emancipation Day that day (which was Friday), taxpayers got an extra three days to pay up.


The eight-day Jewish festival of Passover begins today at sundown. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, which is spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

In the narrative of the Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the Children of Israel escape slavery in Egypt by inflicting 10 plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves; the 10th and worst of the plagues was the slaughter of the first-born. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term "passover". When Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason it is called "The Festival of the Unleavened Bread." Matzo (flat unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday.

It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover (first two nights in communities outside the land of Israel) for a special dinner called a seder (derived from the Hebrew word for "order" referring to the very specific order of the ritual). The table is set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of the meal. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. Four cups of wine are consumed at various stages in the narrative.

The seder is replete with questions, answers and unusual practices to arouse the interest and curiosity of the children at the table. The children are rewarded with nuts and candies when they ask questions and participate in the discussion of the Exodus and its aftermath. Likewise, they are encouraged to search for the afikoman, the piece of matzo which is the last thing eaten at the seder. Audience participation and interaction is the rule, and many families' seders last long into the night with animated discussions and much singing. The seder concludes with additional songs of praise and faith printed in the Haggadah, including "Chad Gadya" ("One Little Kid" or "One Little Goat").

Friday, April 8, 2011

Start fishing tomorrow

The stocking trucks from the Pequest Trout Hatchery in Warren County began rolling on March 21 as the spring pre-season distribution of this year's trout got under way in New Jersey. By year's end, about 600,000 trout, all raised at Pequest, will be stocked throughout the state, but the action really will get going at 8 a.m. on opening day, Saturday, April 9.

The "production trout" average 10.5 inches but will be kept company prior to opening day by some of the more than 6,000 two- to five-pounders which also are being stocked, according to the N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife. This spring, division workers are releasing trout in 88 streams and 90 ponds and lakes throughout New Jersey. Those trout will be in addition to some of the 26,000 two- to five-pound bruisers still in the water from stockings in the fall and winter. Fortunately for the state's anglers, trout remain available throughout the summer in many waters.

In addition to bait and tackle, anglers between the ages of 16 and 70 must obtain a fishing license and trout stamp. Both are available online at Fish and Wildlife’s website,

Tidbits like this and more can be found in Recorder Community Newspapers and in their blogs online here at their websites.

Community groups and individuals interested in joining the 60-plus Recorder bloggers here are invited to call me at (908) 832-7420 or e-mail for details on this 21st century communication tool.