Why is Easter on a different date every year?

EASTER is a Christian holiday which celebrates Jesus rising from the death after three days.

This is why Easter falls on a different date every year.

Why is Easter on a different date every year?

The date is decided by a complex set of calculations based on observations of the moon, meaning the date is different every year.

In early Christianity, different churches used different methods, leading to disagreements which remain unresolved centuries later.

Eastern and Western churches continue to celebrate Easter according to different calendars, although sometimes by chance the festivals coincide.

In the last 10 years, this is when Easter was celebrated:

  • April 8, 2012
  • March 31, 2013
  • April 20, 2014
  • April 5, 2015
  • March 27, 2016
  • April 16, 2017
  • April 1, 2018
  • April 21, 2019
  • April 12, 2020
  • April 4, 2021
  • April 17, 2022

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How is the Easter date worked out?

Since early Christian times, several methods have been used to work out the date of Easter.

In Western Christianity, Easter Sunday must always follow the first full moon after the spring equinox.

Easter is always celebrated near the Jewish festival Passover as the Bible says the death and resurrection of Jesus happened around this time.

Passover typically begins on the night of the first full moon after the spring equinox, except in "leap months" when it is the second full moon, as in 2016.

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Because the precise timing of observing the full moon can vary in each time zone, the Church instead calculates the date of Easter from the ecclesiastical calendar.

This divides 19 normal calendar years into 235 months of 30 and 29 days each, with the ecclesiastical full moon on the 14th day of each lunar month.

The "paschal full moon" – from the Aramaic for Passover – is the one that falls on or after the spring equinox.

So in 2021 the spring equinox is on Saturday, 20 March, and the next full moon after this takes place on Sunday, March 28.

Easter Day is the first Sunday after the paschal full moon – so if the full moon is on a Sunday, Easter will be a week later, which is April 4 in 2021.

Do churches celebrate Easter on different days?

When in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII replaced the Roman calendar with the more accurate Gregorian calendar, determining the date of Easter became a bit more complicated.

Easter was first calculated using the Gregorian calendar in the UK in 1753, with Catholic and western Christians still using the Gregorian calendar to determine the date of Easter.

Some Orthodox church, however, celebrate Easter Day on a different date as they still use the Roman calendar – started by Julius Caesar – and a different moon to calculate from.

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As per the Gregorian calendar used in the UK, Easter can be on the dates between March 22 to April 25.

The last time Easter occurred on the earliest possible date, March 22, was in 1818. The next time won't be until 2285.

 

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