Spring is coming. The groundhog didn’t see his shadow, and already, hints of warm days amidst the cold bring hope of brighter days to come. With the arrival of the season comes the annual question: When is Easter? For 2019, the holiday falls on April 21. That’s late.
The springtime celebration remembers the day of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, and this year, Christians will celebrate on Sunday, April 21, which is much later than last year’s April 1, or 2008’s Easter, which fell on March 23.
Have you ever wondered why Easter changes each year?
Unlike Christmas, the celebration of Easter within the church does not adhere to a single date on the Calendar but rather a time period. It will always fall on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25, but this is a large range. So, what’s the actual pattern? Determining the date upon which Easter will fall has more to do with lunar cycles than the Earth’s rotation around the sun.
Scripture tells us of the actual events that took place during Easter Season — from the Last Supper to Peter’s betrayal, from Jesus’ crucifixion to his burial then to his resurrection. What is perhaps less known is that the Bible also tells us when to celebrate Easter. Scripture puts Jesus’ death following Jewish Passover, celebrated on a full moon in Spring, so early Christians decided to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection according to this Jewish calendar tradition.
Therefore, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the Northern Hemisphere’s vernal equinox (spring equinox). In an effort to standardize this, in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea, the Western Church compiled information about lunar cycles into an ecclesiastical full moon table and made March 21 the standard date of the vernal equinox.
The first ecclesiastical full moon after March 21st is known as the Paschal Full Moon, and Easter falls the following Sunday.
This year, a full moon will occur just before March 21, so the first full moon after the equinox is much later. Thus, Easter Sunday is not until April 21, and Ash Wednesday, the start of Easter season, will fall on March 6.
Easter season is a celebration and reminder of God’s grace extended to us. Perhaps it is fitting that the moon, symbolic of enlightenment and eternity, determines when Christians celebrate the gift of our own eternal life.
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