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Easter nips at winter’s heels

In the past, Doug Wagley relied on faith.

The pastor of Spokane’s New Vision Lutheran Church usually tells his congregation that Easter sunrise services will be warm and sunny – that “God is going to provide wonderful weather.”

Not this year. “It’s still going to be winter,” Wagley said.

Easter hasn’t fallen this close to winter since 1913, and it won’t again for another 220 years. It will be even longer – nearly another 60 years – before Easter falls on the earliest date possible, March 22.

It’s safe to say: Today is the earliest a child now alive will ever celebrate Easter.

“It just seemed that Christmas ended when Lent began,” said Sister Superior Sue Orlowski, of Spokane’s Sisters of Providence.

The sisters didn’t get much of a break this year, she said.

Neither did Douglas Benn’s pocketbook.

“I never did like celebrating Easter in March,” the Spokane man wrote in response to an informal e-mail survey. “I prefer celebrating in April, after the tulips have bloomed.”

Later Easters give Benn a chance to recover financially after St. Patrick’s Day – the day he and a grandson celebrate their birthdays.

This year, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day fall within a week of each other, hardly giving retailers a chance to mark down and clear out the green merchandise before stuffed bunnies went on display.

Easter always falls between March 22 and April 25, but the exact date depends on a number of factors, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. There’s a complicated formula involving the spring equinox, full moons and religious rules dating to the year 325.

“I’m clueless as to why March was chosen,” reader Shelby Pearson, of Spokane, wrote in an e-mail. “To me, it would make more sense to celebrate during the same weekend of the same month each year, just like we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday every November.”

Pearson said Easter isn’t about egg hunts, but an April Easter would make egg hunting a less muddy affair.

Even local religious leaders are at a loss in trying to explain the scheduling of Easter.

“It’s according to the lunar calendar rather than the solar calendar,” Wagley said. “I don’t understand it much myself.”

Though Easter is early today, it’s not all that rare in this area for the holiday to be cold and snowy.

Still, the Rev. Joyce O’Connor-Magee said she reminded people planning to attend this morning’s sunrise service at the Lofty Cross of Inspiration to dress warmly.

At indoor services later in the morning, O’Connor-Magee said, little girls usually wear fancy Easter dresses and tights, but that finery is impractical at dawn.

“Easter sunrise, you really have to put on your long johns and wrap up and grab your cup of coffee,” she said. “People who will come out that early in the morning, and not only that early in the season, are truly Easter people.”

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