Friday, April 06, 2007

God is dead - what's *your* excuse?

Don't get me wrong - I like Easter as much as the next guy (it's in my top three of resurrection myth celebrations, along with the Festival of Dionysos and the Evil Dead trilogy), but as a supervisor I hate scheduling desk coverage for the holiday. Since we're not a religious institution, we don't close or even go to reduced hours for Easter, which means I need to try and divine the religious beliefs of my staff and students without making an ass out of my self with a wrong guess or faux pas.

This is much more difficult than it seems, mostly because even if you have an inkling as to a person's religious affiliation that doesn't necessarily mean that you have a clue as to whether that person actually practices their faith or not. I've found this is hardest when dealing with people from the former Soviet republics, who may be nominally Orthodox or Jewish or what have you but are actually still old-school atheists. My super slick way of attempting to suss this out is usually something like: "So. Got any plans for this weekend?" hoping that some telltale mention of ham, lamb, or the Passover Seder will be elicited.

Of course the bonus nuisance this year is the fact that Western and Orthodox Easter coincide*, which means that I can't rely on my Greek, Armenian, or Ethiopian students to bail me out like I normally do. This is why the public services manager learns to instinctively dread any time of the year that encourages families to spend quality time together. At least on the Federal holidays we lock the library doors...

* It's a long story, but due to the contested interpretations of reckoning sacred time Orthodox and Western Christians can celebrate their Easter holiday as many as five weeks apart from one another. Wikipedia has a decent roundup of the controversy, if you're interested in that sort of thing! But the upshot is that because that the Orthodox reject the Julian calendar reforms when computing the date of Easter, there will come a time when it will be impossible for the two Easters to coincide (in fact, in the far future Orthodox Christianity will be roasting their Easter lambs in midsummer if they stick to their guns!). Bad for ecumenical Christianity I suppose, but good news for anyone who has to put together a desk schedule!

No comments: