A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with a friend who lives in Las Vegas. Suddenly, out of the blue, he asked, "Is Easter this Sunday?"
"No," I replied. "Easter is one month from this Sunday."
"Oh." He laughed lightly, embarrassed, I suppose, that he didn't know. "I was just thinking of the beautiful place where I usually go for sunrise service."
At the time, I didn't think much about it but later I thought, "You can tell he's not Southern for Southerners always know exactly when Easter is."
That's because Easter is one of the four seasons of Southern life. We don't go by spring, summer, fall and winter like most people. Our seasons are Easter, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We begin planting gardens and wearing light-weight clothes - including white - at Easter. Labor Day signals the time to change the closet where we bring out the black and put away the white. Thanksgiving is deep fall when the sweaters come out, the leaves are raked and the lawnmowers are put away. When Christmas is over, we settle in for the coldest part of the year, store up the firewood and dream of Easter to return.
This change of seasons also influences the food on our table. Ham and coconut cake are for Easter, fresh vegetables clutter our tables from Easter to Labor Day with apple cake and pie celebrating the coming fall. It's turkey and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, then heavy soups, spiced teas and peppermint for Christmas.
In early January, my family was all together when my niece, Nicole, asked her sister-in-law, Selena, "Do you know what y'all are wearing for Easter?"
My sister had just announced - though we already knew it - "Easter is late this year. It's the last Sunday in April." If you're a Southerner, you have to know exactly when the seasons begin.
It was January. The old year had barely drifted away. Now, know this: The two most frequently asked questions in our family are: "Do you know what you're wearing for Easter?" and "Are you ready for Christmas?"
I wasn't surprised at Nicole's question. I was astounded at the answer. Selena, without missing a beat, said, "Purple."
Here's another bit of background you should have to understand all of this - in the sub-families of my family, everyone chooses a color theme so parents and children wear the same color. That's why it's so easy being a family of one - I only have to worry about me. I don't have to find outfits in the same color for six or seven people.
When Selena answered, I spun my head around to look at her. "You've got to be kiddin'. It's January and you already know what color you're wearing for Easter?"
She didn't think it was strange that she knew. She thought it was strange that I questioned it. She nodded. "I've already got the kids' clothes. I've got to find a purple tie for Rod."
I'm telling you - it's just too much pressure in my family to live up to their standards of perfection. When Easter is in March, I almost collapse under the strain of trying to find an Easter dress and matching hat because the spring clothes are barely in the stores. The pickings are slim. This year, because the March full moon came on the eve of the beginning of spring, and since Easter falls on the Sunday following the first full moon after the dawning of spring, we have a late Easter.
When Thanksgiving comes, that will be on my list of things for which to be grateful: A late arriving Easter andm therefore, more time to find my attire. I'll take any help I can get, in this and all things.
So, a new season begins. Better late than early. Happy Easter and spring.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.