Moon keeps track of easter and passover dates _ belleville news-democrat

D.&J. S., of Belleville

A: Blame it on the moon.

No, really, I’m serious.

Most Christians know that Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring — based on spring starting March 21. (Spring can start as early as March 19, but in 1583 the Catholic church decided to recognize only March 21 as the official vernal equinox with regard to determining Easter.) As a result, even though Christ’s birth is always celebrated on Dec. 25, the anniversary of his resurrection can be any time between (and including) March 22 and April 25.

If you think that’s complicated, wait until I add the dating of Passover into the mix.

The weeklong festival of Passover celebrates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, an event made possible by Moses parting the Red Sea with his staff, according to the Bible. Every year, the festival begins on the eve of the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which is the date of that month’s full moon.

At first glance, that probably sounds like a far simpler means of determining a holiday than Easter — until you remember that Hebrew months are based on a 29- or 30-day cycle of the moon. When you put 12 lunar months together, you come up with about a 354-day year, 11 days or so shorter than it takes the Earth to travel around the sun.

String enough of these lunar years together and soon you’d have winter in the middle of summer as the calendar compared to nature would fall more and more out of whack each year. (This is why Pope Gregory XIII’s new calendar in 1582 — the one most people use today — was so badly needed.)

So to keep the Hebrew calendar correlated with the real seasons, an extra lunar month has to be inserted into the calendar every two or three years — seven times every 19 years, to be exact. By constantly adding this extra month, the Hebrew calendar keeps in step with the solar year.

But this extra month is not placed just anywhere. In the Jewish calendar, Nisan follows Adar, which follows Shevat. In leap years, a 30-day Adar I is added after Shevat, while the regular Adar is usually referred to as Adar II.

Can you begin to see how this can affect the timing of Easter and Passover? In most years, the full moon of Nisan is also the first full moon after March 21 on the Gregorian calendar. In those years, Easter will follow the start of Passover within a week. Next year, for example, Passover will start on April 11 with Easter to follow on April 16.

But when you go stuffing an extra month like this year, you can throw the two key religious holidays off by weeks because the full moon of Nisan will be after the full moon used to determine Easter. In 2024, for example, Easter will be on March 31, long before the Jewish people begin observing Passover on April 24.

If you’re brain isn’t boggled enough already, let me remind you that the Eastern Orthodox church bases its date for Easter on the old Julian calendar, the system Julius Caesar devised that failed to add a leap year every four years. As a result, that church’s followers will not celebrate Easter until May 1 this year, although the dates will coincide again next year.

Q: I’m trying to find a couple of recipes by Joy Bauer. What do you suggest?

J. L., of Belleville

A: You’ll probably be cooking with gas if you go to www. joybauer. com, where you can find the nutrition expert dishing out advice on most any culinary topic you can think of.

“Life is hard, food should be easy,” she says, and, to prove it, she offers dozens of tasty recipes from A (Angel Eggs and Apple & PB ’wiches) to Z (zucchini linguine). You can search among more than a dozen categories (arthritis, insomnia, memory, etc.) or by mealtime or food type (dessert, condiments, etc.).

And if you can’t find the exact recipe, you might try one of her many books, including “Junk Food to Joy Food,” “Joy Bauer’s Food Cures” and “Your Inner Skinny.” (You’ll find an even wider selection on amazon. com.) Bon appetit.

Q: What’s the history behind the word “billiards” and how did it evolve into “pool”?

Tom Schenck, of Edwardsville

A: The first is as easy as a straight shot into a corner pocket. “Billiards” likely comes from either the French word “billart” or “billette” for “stick” or from the French “bille,” meaning “ball.”

An outdoor game similar to croquet was played as early as the 1340 while King Louis XI of France is thought to have the first known indoor table in the late 15th century. Even Shakespeare makes mention of the game in the opening lines of Act II, Scene 5, of “Antony and Cleopatra,” when Cleopatra says, “Let it alone; let’s to billiards: come, Charmian.”

Pool, which popped up around 1850, is trickier. Many say it comes from the French “poule” for “stakes, booty, plunder” that might have been wagered on a game.

Literally, it comes from the Old French “poille” for hen or young fowl. In this sense, it may have come from a game called “jeu de la poule,” in which people threw things at a chicken with the player who hit it deemed the winner. The idea behind it, however, is playing for money or other stakes.

Today’s trivia

Whom was actress Katharine Hepburn told to model her performance after while filming “The African Queen” with Humphrey Bogart?

Answer to Saturday’s trivia: When Alfred Hitchcock was filming his classic thriller “Psycho,” he tried hard to keep the plot secret by referring to it as “Production 9401” or “Wimpy” — the name of cameraman Rex Wimpy. On the set, Hitchcock could be found sitting in a director’s chair with “Mrs. Bates” on it. Made on a budget of just $809,000, the film grossed $50 million and earned four Oscar nominations, including best supporting actress for Janet Leigh and best director for Hitchcock.