As I write this Easter morning, having just returned from an early Mass at Our Lady Of Peace in downtown Bucerias, I am simultaneously feeling extra tired from “springing forward” into Daylight Savings time, and wondering what pranks to pull on my family for April Fool’s Day. What are the odds that these three distinct events fall on the same day?
Easter, which follows the lunar rather than Gregorian calendar, falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the Vernal Equinox. Roman Emperor Constantine I convened the First Council of Nicea in AD 325, during which it was officially decided that Easter Day would always be determined this way…and folks have been commemorating that same Sunday for 1,693 years!
April Fool’s Day, now celebrated on April 1st, has been observed in some form or another since ancient Rome, who set aside a holiday just for frivolity and pranks. The practice of tricking friends and family exploded in the 1700s when English pranksters popularized the tradition on what became known as “All Fools’ Day.”
Mexico has only been observing Daylight Savings Time since 1996, changing the clocks forward on the first Sunday in April, and back on the last Sunday in October, which means the actual calendar date changes annually. Next year, we will celebrate foolishness on April 1st, change our clocks on the 7th, and come together for Easter dinner on the 21st, each holiday occupying a separate place in our lives. But this year we got the trifecta of holiday magic! A rare, celestial opportunity to gather for a prank-filled Easter feast and gain an extra hour of sunlight before bedtime. I spent a moment online and discovered that this wouldn’t happen again until the year 2029, and hasn’t happened since 1956!
While Easter is international, the way we observe it isn’t. Mexico has developed particularly unique customs that hardly resemble the egg hunts, bonnets and neighborhood potlucks of my American youth. The rituals of staging elaborate crucifixion reenactments (Passion Plays), public self-flagellation displays, and massive silent processions are specifically Mexican, with such events taking place nationwide from Palm Sunday to Easter Day. Many believe that to attend the most famous Passion Play in Iztapalapa—begun in 1843 after a terrible cholera outbreak and now attended by nearly two million people annually—transports viewers back in time to witness history.
I scoured my local stores for chocolate bunnies and plastic eggs to hide for my kids, (explaining to each confused clerk about my people’s bizarre custom of eating marshmallow chicks for Easter), and felt grateful that the commercialization of Easter has not really taken root in Mexico. We would have to adjust our family’s sails and create our own American-Mexican holiday traditions. And I realized that our beautiful bay represents the unlikely coming together of three distinct cultures, three unique trajectories meeting in one exceptional place, not unlike the auspicious April 1st we were having.
Canadian, American and Mexican traditions blend here to form new customs, as history meets modernity in the minds and choices of the next generation; and I suppose it’s always been that way, as migration intertwines families, traditions morph to include the ebb and flow of our mores.
Walking around the Bucerias plaza early Easter morning, there was a sense of community and richness that can be lost in our individualistic world. “Feliz Pascua!” Families called out to one another, rushing into the basilica delayed by the time change, towing children with prank-filled sparkles in their eyes (or did I imagine that?). The priest addressed a packed house of every shade of Melanin—from sunburnt red to indigenous chocolate—intermingling our language, our faith, and our customs to generate our own distinctly blended culture…and to collectively celebrate the rebirth of something new, the way Spring has always done.