This spring, Easter Sunday does not fall until April 21st which is rather marvellous as it makes good weather for our Easter Egg hunt rather more likely, thus encouraging as many entrants as possible.

As a child, I use to amuse myself in church by puzzling over the tables in the Morning Prayer book which showed how to calculate the date for Easter each year. My mother always ensured we arrived far too early for church, so there was always a certain amount of sitting and waiting and the oddest thing is that I find I do exactly the same today and again re-read the same books.

The timing of Easter is all to do with the moon. In Christian Church calendars, the spring equinox was determined to be fixed on March 21st. Easter was deemed to be the first Sunday after the first full moon, called the Paschal Full Moon, and so may fall therefore on any date between March 22nd and April 25th. In 2019, the first full moon does not occur until April 19th; hence Easter is so late this year.

The Moon repeats the dates of its phases approximately every 19 years (the Metonic cycle), and the so called “Golden Number” represents which year you have reached in that cycle. Then, if you are trying to plan ahead, the year of the cycle can then be used to determine the date of Easter in any given year. It all sounds a bit like a school maths paper but, to work out the “Golden Number”, add 1 to any given year and divide the result by 19. Calculate to the nearest whole number and the remainder is the “Golden Number”. If there is no remainder, the “Golden Number” is 19.

So using 2019 as an example, take 2019 and add 1, which is thus 2020. Divide it evenly by 19, which gives a remainder of 6. Therefore, the “Golden Number” for 2019 is 6, meaning 2019 is the 6th year of the current Metonic cycle.

Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar—and has been regularly observed from the earliest days of the Church. It is about the hope of resurrection and a future land of peace following the unbelievable suffering of Christ betrayed by his own people. The old Christian phrase is: “God became man so that man could become a god.”

However, these days, apart from church services and an eternal acknowledgment of what others have done for us, Easter has other traditions as well such as chocolate (lots of it), Easter egg hunts and the Easter bunny. At Highclere, for the last ten or twelve years we have created a charity Easter “trail” through the gardens which takes place on Easter Day. This year it is in aid of the Murray Parish trust which raises money to support paediatric emergency medicine, ensuring children affected by major trauma receive the best chance of surviving and recovering. Jim Murray and Sarah Parish are an extraordinary couple, generous in life and in turning round their own loss to help contribute to saving other children.

Sarah (Walker) at the controls in the BBC studios in Reading

It has been an honour to plan and curate a day to help children like their Ella-Jayne. Last week, Sarah and I went to Radio Berkshire to broadcast the event with presenter, Sarah Walker as well as have a chat about all Sarah’s upcoming television roles.

I was just starting to feel a little panicked about the Easter Eggs, one of which we give out to every child arriving back from the trail when we heard that we have been offered over 1,000 Easter eggs by a delicious chocolate supplier – the Meaningful Chocolate Company. It is unbelievably kind of them and so we are hoping that at least this number of children will join us on Easter Day with their parents and families. In addition, we welcome as many children as are willing to take part in our Easter Bonnet parade – which is utterly invidious to judge. We hope that they will also enjoy the bouncy castle and other games on the lawns, weather permitting.

Team Highclere practising on the bouncy slide

I hope it will be a fun day and give much pleasure to the families who come, as well as helping Jim and Sarah’s cause. We may have lost touch with the cycles of the moon, forgetting sometimes to look up and out but, when my son Edward was little, he and I we would read a book about loving each other to the moon and back. There really is nothing more important and today Ella-Jayne and her memory remain loved in just such a way.