Why is Easter on a Different Date Each Year?
What is it with Resurrection Sunday? One year it’s in March, the next in April! Is it true the British parliament tried to force the issue? And was ignored?
Why not? Sunrise, which begins daytime, occurs when the top of the sun's disk rises above the eastern horizon. At that instant, the disk's center is still below the horizon. Second, Earth's atmosphere refracts sunlight. As a result, an observer sees daylight before the first glimpse of the sun's disk above the horizon.
So, if we want to be proper, we should use the word equilux to describe the 24-hour period in which the periods of daylight and night are equal. Also, the times of sunset and sunrise vary with an observer's longitude and latitude, so the date when day and night are of exactly equal length depends on your location.
Basically, the equinox occurs on different days in different locations around the globe.
So, it’s not an accurate way in which to base anything – particularly when to celebrate Easter.
Prior to 325 A.D., Easter was always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the paschal full moon. However, after the Council of Nicea, it was decided to establish a more standardized system for determining the date of Easter. As a result, explains Fairchild, today “the date of the paschal full moon is determined from historical tables, and has no correspondence to lunar events.”
“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 ‘Ecclesiastical Full Moon’ dates. These dates would determine the Holy Days on the Ecclesiastical calendar.”
However, that didn’t work very well either.
The solution should have been simple – just go back to celebrating Easter whenever the Jewish community was celebrating Passover. However, that was politically incorrect.
So, around 1583 A.D., the table for determining the Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates was permanently established and has been used ever since to determine the date of Easter. As a result, it’s rare that Easter falls on Passover.
Easter has ever since then been celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the paschal full moon. However, 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.
So, Easter dates can wildly swing from March 22 through April 25.
The bottom line? Forget about trying to calculate next year’s date for Easter by yourself. Just look in your Farmer’s Almanac or Google it or glance up at the calendar on the wall.
And if you didn’t think the matter could get any worse, it does. There are two Easters celebrated annually around the world.
When the Roman Empire split in two almost 2,000 years ago – with the western empire centered in Italy and the eastern empire headquartered in Turkey, the church split as well.
There were a lot of theological reasons, such as the wording of the official creed and Mary’s role. However, today, the two groups can’t agree about much of anything beyond “Jesus is Lord.”
And they celebrate Easter on different dates.