Easter is one of the most significant holidays among Christians, commemorated using various symbolism that reflects on Jesus' death and resurrection. The moveable feast often happens between March and April, confusing many people on the exact dates every year. How are Easter dates determined, and why do the dates change every year?
It is easy to figure out the exact dates of Easter this year once you know Ash Wednesday’s date, another significant day that marks the beginning of the lent season. The main Easter event happens six and a half weeks from Ash Wednesday, which is the culmination of the 40 days of lent.
However, once Ash Wednesday's date is set, the determiners have already figured out the exact Easter dates. If you would like to comprehend how the date is arrived on and why it fluctuates, perhaps you might want to look to the sky for your answer.
What is the common Easter date?
As you already know, Easter is a moveable feast and celebrating it on a specific date the previous year doesn't necessarily mean it will happen at the same time the following year. Also, it is integral to keep in mind the different calendars of the world.
The Eastern Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar while the most considerable portion of the world and most Christians abide by the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, the dates set might differ on the different calendars but are determined using the same formula.
So, what are the expected Easter dates? Easter ordinarily happens between March 22 and April 25. On top of this, between 1600 and 2099AD (500 years), Easter has been celebrated on either March 31 or April 16.
How are Easter dates determined?
Many people are not aware that Easter dates are associated with the full moon. Easter is commemorated on the first Sunday of the full moon that happens after the spring equinox.
In the Christian calendar, the full moon of spring is referred to as the Paschal Full Moon and is utilized to determine the Easter date. The Paschal Full Moon is also arrived at using mathematical approximations that follow a 19-year cycle referred to as the Metonic cycle.
If you consider the considerations mentioned earlier, you will learn that Easter is observed on the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon. This a sufficient answer for anyone looking to answer the question, “How are Easter dates determined?"
Astronomical versus Ecclesiastical dates
The astronomical calendar possesses dates for notable astronomical events that includes moon phases, meteor showers, eclipses and many more. The Ecclesiastical calendar often referred to as the Lunar calendar, depends on Easter Day's date.
The church rules don’t necessarily agree with the astronomical measurements. In 325 A.D, the Roman Emperor Constantine organized a meeting referred to as the First Council of Nicaea. They discussed the new rules of the Julian calendar, including how to determine the dates of Easter.
The convention came up with the idea of setting an invariable date for the vernal equinox and how to define the Ecclesiastical Full moon. Therefore, they settled to ignore the actual astronomical full moon and the vernal equinox.
However, after Pope Gregory XIII ordered a re-examination of the Julian calendar, the Gregorian calendar made the Ecclesiastical calendar closely match the astronomical calendar.
What happens in the years the Church's March equinox and Paschal Full Moon dates do not coincide, creating confusion on Easter's actual date? The church always follows the Ecclesiastical full moon to determine the Easter date.
The Paschal Full Moon
The Paschal Full Moon is utilized in the Ecclesiastical calendar of the Christian church. The name originates from Pascha, which means Passover in Aramaic.
The Paschal Full Moon refers to the full moon's date determined numerous years ago in 325 A.D. It is the 14th day of the lunar month on or after March 21. This date is based on specific Ecclesiastical calendar rules that don't necessarily abide by the astronomical full moon.
What is the rarest date for Easter?
As you are already aware, Easter can only happen between March 22 and April 25. This timing is according to the Ecclesiastical calendar rules. Of course, since the inception of the holiday, some dates crop up more than others, and the same is for specific dates that the holiday rarely falls.
In the numerous years that people have been celebrating Easter, it doesn't occur on March 22, the earliest date possible. In 2019, Easter Sunday happened on April 21, which is also rare, and not on the 22nd.
The most common Easter dates between 1875 and 2124 would be April 10 and April 17, with eleven Easter falling on these dates.
What is the golden number used to calculate Easter?
The questions of “How are the dates of Easter and Passover determined?" has a simple answer – the golden number. What does the number mean, and how is it utilized to calculate the Easter date?
Simply put, the golden number is a figure used to show dates of the new moon for every year after a 19-year cycle.
To calculate the golden number, take any year and add 1. Then divide the result by 19, ascertaining that you calculate to the nearest whole number. Whatever remainder you get is the golden number. If you don’t get any remainder, then the golden number is 19.
Why is Easter celebrated in spring?
Now that you have a comprehensive answer to the common inquiry “Why does the date of Easter change every year?” you might be wondering about the season as well. The answer lies in the Holy Book. According to the church, the Easter date ought to be according to the Paschal Full Moon during spring.
Easter date reforms
In 1997, the World Council of Churches proposed an alteration of the Easter date calculations. They recommended replacing the equation-based formula with the more realistic astronomical observation.
If the proposed alterations had happened, it would have eliminated the differences between those observing the Gregorian and Julian calendar. Although the changes were meant to be adopted in 2001, they were never implemented.
Another attempt to alter the Easter date happened in the United Kingdom that created the Easter Act 1928. It stated that the Easter date ought to be fixed as the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. The law was never commissioned, and it is still part of the United Kingdom Law Database.
The above information is comprehensive enough for someone looking to answer the question “How are Easter dates determined?". It is based on specific calculations and conventions that were determined long ago by the Christian church. Therefore, don't be alarmed by the shifting dates between a specified period on the calendar.
Are you planning to send your loved ones inspirational Easter messages? Yen.com.gh featured an interesting piece highlighting the different meaningful messages and words of inspiration that you can share.
The simple words given to someone you care for can mean a lot and are sometimes even better than a physical gift. Easter is a time of giving and sharing love, and there is no better way of doing it than through lovely messages.
Source: Yen Ghana