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? Back in the Roman Empire, Julius Cesar established the calendar we still follow. However it was flawed. During the Renaissance, it was realized that the Earth’s annual orbit around the sun is not exactly 365 days.
So, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII lopped off 10 days from that year’s calendar. October 4, 1582 was officially followed by October 15, 1582. However, not everybody went along – particularly non-Catholics who believed the church in Rome to be “the great whore of Babylon,” described in John’s Revelation.
So, the Catholic countries of Europe such as Italy, Austria and France followed one calendar. Protestant countries such as Germany and Norway followed another as did Eastern Orthodox countries such as Russia, Albania and Greece. The Russians didn’t comply until the 20th century. Greece was the last to give in finally in 1923.
However, the Eastern Orthodox church still isn’t about to let Jews or Roman Catholics tell it what to do. So, the eastern churches still celebrate on a completely different date most years. They have evolved their own system, a 19-year cycle, as opposed to Roman Catholicism’s 84-year rotation. In 2007 Easter fell on the same date, April 8, in both calendars. It happened again in 2004, 2010 and 2011, but is a rarity.
There have been a number of suggested reforms.
In the United Kingdom, the Easter Act of 1928 declared that Easter was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the second Saturday each April. However, church leaders scoffed at the idea of Parliament telling them what to do. As a result, the law was not implemented, although it remains on the UK Statute Law Database.
In 1997 the World Council of Churches proposed calculating Easter with direct astronomical observation. However, the Catholic Church refuses to be a part of the World Council of Churches as do most Evangelicals, such as the Southern Baptists and Assemblies of God.
The reform was proposed to be implemented in 2001, but it is not yet adopted – nor is it likely to be since the WCC increasingly has less influence with the steady decline of liberal mainstream Protestantism.
What about the idea of just putting Easter back on the annual weekend when Jews across the world celebrate Passover?
It makes sense. It would conform to the Bible’s description of when Jesus rose again.
However, don’t expect such a solution to be accepted any time soon.