Whatever day

I am convinced that today is Easter Day, but a lot of people think it’s Easter Sunday. This is partly simple familiarity: The Book of Common Prayer, An Australian Prayer Book, A Prayer Book for Australia, the Anglican Communion’s Cycle of Prayer and probably every hymn book I’ve ever used all use Easter Day. It is partly a matter of logic and redundancy. The Day of Resurrection has always been celebrated on ‘the first day of the week’/‘the Lord’s Day’, therefore ‘Sunday’ is redundant. Forty days later comes Ascension Day, not Ascension Thursday. But there’s also Ash Wednesday, Whitsunday and Trinity Sunday, so logic and redundancy only get me so far.

Alas, Google Ngrams shows that Easter Sunday is about three to four times as common as Easter Day. Does this make Easter Sunday ‘right’ and Easter Day ‘wrong’. No. I have the right to choose what I say (I can even say ‘the Day of Resurrection’ if I want to) and everyone else has the right to choose what they say (even if they’re wrong). (Though I doubt that many people ‘choose’ what to say in this case.) I cannot possibly say Easter Sunday and I am even fighting the urge to put it in scare quotes every time I write it.

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Friday was a traditional festival in China and Korea (and other East and South-East Asian countries). By coincidence, the first two students to arrive yesterday (Saturday) were from those two countries, so I asked them if they’d done anything special. Neither had. 

I asked the Chinese student what he would call the festival in English, and he just couldn’t say. I told him that it’s usually called ‘Mid-Autumn Festival’, and he seemed surprised at that. The Chinese name is 中秋節 (zhōngqiū jié), literally middle-autumn-festival. Other possible names in English are ‘Chinese Traditional Thanksgiving’ or ‘Harvest Moon Festival’, though with increasingly urbanised life, the link to the moon and harvest is being lost. Maybe in country areas it’s stronger.

The Korean name is 추석 (chu-soek), which might mean ‘Autumn Eve’ Google Translate simply translates it as ‘Chuseok’, and Bing Translator as ‘Thanksgiving’. Google doesn’t translate ‘chu’ and ‘seok’ by themselves as anything relevant. Bing translates ‘chu’ as ‘autumn’ , but it certainly isn’t the standard word for autumn, which is 가을, but ‘seok’ as nothing relevant.

Wikipedia also calls Chuseok by the hanja (Chinese characters traditionally used in Korea) 秋夕, qiū xī, which translates as ‘autumn eve’ (or ‘autumn evening’) (which Google and Bing both agree with). (The first character of that is the same as the second character of the Chinese festival’s name.)

For what it’s worth, Wikipedia’s article on the Chinese festival is named ‘Mid-Autumn Festival’ and the one on the Korean festival is named ‘Chuseok’.