Call it Easter or call it complicated

We sat in our little group around the large round restaurant table — a journalist, a master gardener, a Realtor, a law student and a poet. If politics make strange bedfellows then the restaurant business makes even odder table mates. It is one of the few jobs that you can work as much or as little as you want.

Over the years I’ve worked with actors, dentists, lawyers, stock brokers, hairstylists — you name it. Just because someone is makes drinks or serves food doesn’t mean that is all he or she does. In many cases it is just one small part of what he or she does and is.

Our group gathered to discuss an upcoming milestone in the restaurant business, the business of Easter. While there are many busy days in a restaurant calendar — Mother’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo — Easter is certainly one of the biggest. The combination of family and busyness makes it also one of the toughest. Many restaurants and bars aren’t open on Christmas or Thanksgiving, but Easter is a different story.

“Easter is early this year,” the gardener said matter of factly.

“Isn’t it always around the same time?” the Realtor asked.

“It’s a moveable feast,” remarked the journalist.

“Tied to the lunar moon, right?” postulated the poet.

“I’m sure there must be a formula,” the lawyer advised.

Named after a pagan goddess, based partly on a Jewish holiday and reckoned by a lunisolar calendar, the Easter celebration is not as clear cut as one might suppose. It is indeed a moveable feast, meaning that it moves around in the calendar (by as much as 40 days). In fact it is the most important moveable feast, because all the other moveable feast days are based upon it. Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Good Friday would all be lost without Easter.

For such an important Christian holiday one might think its date would be a universal truth. It is generally accepted that the Last Supper celebrated by Jesus and his followers was a Passover Seder celebration. Passover is a traditional Jewish holiday based on the lunisolar calendar and commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt.

Theoretically Easter and Passover should be at the same time (this year they actually do run concurrently) since both are based on lunisolar (moon/sun) calendars. But they are based on different lunisolar calculations. It gets even more complicated as different calendars are then overlaid.


The Hebrew calendar is different than the Julian calendar, which is different from the Gregorian calendar. Things get very complicated very quickly. The Council of Nicaea in 325CE established that Easter would take place the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the March equinox — except everyone doesn’t agree when that equinox or that full moon is.

Let’s just say Easter this year is April 5 and leave it at that. Or, April 12 if you are Orthodox Christian. Passover runs almost exactly between the two, just to complicate matters.

Here are some other things you may or may not know about either of the Easters or Passover or all three.

• In many Latin American countries Easter is called Pasqual, which is also their word for Passover.

• Ramos fizzes, the quintessential brunch drink, would not be considered kosher if consumed with meat (dairy and meat combined are not kosher, even if each is individually). To say nothing of an Easter ham.

• Grain alcohol (think vodka or whiskey) is also not kosher as it is made from sprouted grain. The local 209 distillery in San Francisco makes a kosher gin and a kosher vodka, just in case. Both are made from a sugar distillate and the work is overseen by rabbis.

• The story of the Exodus also appears in the Koran.

• Easter lilies are deadly toxic to housecats; even their pollen can kill one.

• In the Koran, Jesus is the Messiah, borne of a virgin, and a miracle worker. In fact he is mentioned more than 90 times, more than any prophet besides Mohammed. However Muslims don’t believe Jesus died on the cross or was resurrected, making a celebration of Easter unnecessary.

• Last year Easter and Orthodox Easter fell on the same day; go figure.

• Finally, if anyone is looking to pick up a Sunday night shift on April 5, it’s still not too late to let me know — I do have a column to write.