April 5 is my birthday. This year, for the first time in my life, my birthday was on Easter.
The date for Easter, as most people know, floats around during the spring. In theory, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. But the vernal equinox was set as March 21 under the Gregorian calendar, which means Easter can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.
My father’s birthday was on April 25—the latest day Easter could be—and Easter was on his birthday in 1943 when he was ten years old (though that was the only year Easter fell on his birthday during his lifetime).
So how can it be that in the fifty-nine years I have been alive, Easter has never before fallen on April 5? Somehow, that doesn’t seem fair.
My birthday seemed to always be on Friday as I was growing up, although in reality it didn’t happen that often. My first birthday was on Friday, but I don’t remember that one.
The first Friday birthday I remember occurred when I was seven. It was during Lent, so our family couldn’t eat meat, because we observed Catholic Lenten regulations. I couldn’t have my favorite meals of steak or fried chicken. My mother tried to compensate by having my birthday dinner on Saturday, but it just wasn’t the same as celebrating on My Day itself.
I spent my 12th birthday—Friday, April 5, 1968—at my step-grandfather’s vacation home in Cannon Beach, Oregon. We went out to dinner at a seafood restaurant, and my father gave me one of his raw oysters to eat. I was deathly ill that night, and have never again eaten raw oysters.
When I spent my birthday with friends during college—on Friday, April 5, 1974—they served me a very nice cheese casserole and a lovely birthday cake, but I sighed inside at the lack of a hearty meat and potatoes meal.
When my birthday was on Good Friday—which has happened twice since I became an adult, in 1985 and 1996—I even had to fast. I couldn’t eat much of anything on my birthday!
I suppose there were some compensations for my often Lenten birthdays. When I attended a Catholic grade school, our Easter break was always the week after Easter. But once I started in a public school in ninth grade, we didn’t have “Easter breaks” any more, we had a non-religious “spring break”, which was always the first week in April. The same schedule applied at Middlebury College, when I was there. So from 1970 through 1976, I never had to go to classes on my birthday, regardless of when Easter was.
Unfortunately, Stanford Law School wasn’t as enlightened. And then I started working. So my respite from obligations on my birthday ended. Some years, my kids were on spring break for my birthday, and I took vacation time also. But as any mother will tell you, her birthdays are not as important as the kids’ activities and desires.
The odd thing is that after a very long drought of Easter falling on April 5 (which last happened in 1942), there will be several occurrences in the next few decades. I might celebrate my birthday on Easter again in 2026, in 2037, and in 2048. Will I make it to my 92nd birthday in 2048?
What memories do you have of your birthdays—good and bad?