Easter Date Changes Yearly Following Lunar Cycles, Traditions

 

By Kelly Wise Legg

Many people have commented that Easter is later than normal this year. Have you ever wondered why the dates of Easter change from year to year? Easter Sunday can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25? There are as many misunderstandings about the calculation of Easter dates, as there are reasons for the confusion. Here is the scoop on why the date changes:

Since the days of early church history, determining the precise date of Easter has been a matter of debate. Some have speculated that the followers of Christ neglected to record the exact date of Jesus’ resurrection. From then on the matter grew more complex.

To establish some consistency, the early church founders wanted to keep the observance of Easter in correlation to the Jewish Passover. Because the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ happened after the Passover, they wanted Easter to always be celebrated following the Passover. Because the Jewish holiday calendar is based on solar and lunar cycles, each feast day is movable, with dates shifting from year to year. Now, from here the explanation grows more complicated.

Today in the Western Christianity world, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon. As astronomers were able to approximate the dates of all the full moons in future years, these dates would determine the Holy Days on the calendar.

By 1583 A.D. the table for determining the Ecclesiastical Full Moon was permanently established and has been used ever since to determine the date of Easter.  Paschal Full Moon is the first Ecclesiastical Full Moon date after March 20. So, in Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon.

The Paschal Full Moon ranges from March 21 to April 18. As a result, Easter dates can range from March 22 through April 25 in Western Christianity.

This year, Christians will celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 20, which seems, to most of us, later than usual. Last year, Easter was observed on Sunday, March 31.  Next year, Easter Sunday falls on Sunday, April 5. Regardless of the exact date, the reason to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus remains constant.