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 for persistent debate. Some have speculated that the followers of Christ neglected to record the exact date of Jesus’ resurrection. From then on the matter grew increasingly 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 Passover, they wanted Easter to always be celebrated following 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 date of the year. As astronomers were able to approximate the dates of all the full moons in future years, the Western Christian Church used these calculations to establish a table of full moon dates. 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. Thus, according to the ecclesiastical tables, the 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 can vary as much as two days from the date of the actual full moon, with dates ranging 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 4, which is a little earlier than Easter 2020, which was celebrated on April 12. Next year, Easter Sunday is even a little later—April 17. Regardless of the exact date, the reason to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus remains constant.

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Kelly Legg has been writing for the Osprey Observer as a freelance writer for three years, and has recently taken on the role of managing editor for the Christian Voice newspaper. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications. She currently resides in Riverview with her husband and three children.