Roanoke, VA

The tradition of the sun dancing or shouting at sunrise on Easter

Cheryl E Preston
the sun dancingPhoto byRaimond KlavinsonUnsplash

Why does the sun appear to dance on Easter morning?

It is customary for local churches in Roanoke and Botetourt County as well as those around the world to hold Easter Sunrise services to acknowledge the women the Bible says found Christ's tomb empty at sunrise. The tradition is for various churches to come together under one roof and prior to COVID, the host church would have breakfast. When I was a child local churches gathered in Glade Creek Baptist Church Cemetary and went back to the host church that year for breakfast but I never heard anything about the Easter morning sun dancing until about 5 years ago.

There is an Easter morning tradition that began in Europe that is considered folklore but some local people swear by it. The phenomenon is called the Easter morning sun dance or sun shouting. This is when at sunrise on Sunday the Ressurection is observed you notice the sun a little brighter or bigger and it seems to dance in the sky in honor of Christ's rising from the grave. In Ireland, parents would have children look at the sun's reflection in a bucket of water so they would not be disappointed if they could not see it from the sky.
Sun reflected in waterPhoto byAydin HassanonUnsplash

Adults staged an Easter treat for children

The moving water delighted the children and even though this was staged many adults insisted they saw the sun shouting ad they gathered on hilltops to watch it take place. I have a friend who says she has seen the sun shouting often in Roanoke on Easter morning when the sky is clear. Another friend in Richmond says she has heard of the sun dancing but believes it's a metaphor. I have on two occasions believed that I saw the sun dancing on Easter Sunday but was told by several people it was probably only the power of suggestion.

This brings to mind Easter Sunday 1968 when my brother and I took a shortcut to the store before getting ready for to attend Sunday School at Blue Ridge Baptist Church. As we walked through the trees and the path we were excited to see what appeared to be animal paw prints. We ran home telling our grandma we had seen the Easter Bunny's trail and it was so exciting and real. We just knew that we were no longer trusting by faith but had seen actual evidence. The following year I was told that there was no Easter Bunny and realized the tracks were made by another animal and I was disappointed that my belief was not validated.
Bands around the sun seem to movePhoto byekwini video screenshot

Bands appear around the sun which seems to change size

The phenomenon of the sun dancing has been observed on occasions other than Easter at different times of the day as you can see in the video if you click on the link. The man who took it said that there was a band around the sun that seemed to be moving and not the brightest star itself-although the sun appeared to change size.

There is a scientific explanation for the sun seeming to dance that has to do with ice crystals and James Hornish writes that if the sun actually moved on its axis there would be chaos in the world. Even so, the faithful who really believe the sun shouts at sunrise on Resurrection Sunday will continue to look and nothing will dissuade them, and like Hornish might reply:

but I think I believe it. If the Old Testament poet who told the story of Job could say that on the first morning of creation the stars sang together, then I have no problem believing that the sun dances for joy on Easter.

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I write, about breaking news, and current events. I wrote a newspaper column from 1997 to 2007 and have written for various online platforms since 2012 including Yahoo Contributor Network, Hubpages, and Vocal Media.

Roanoke, VA

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