Many holidays are celebrated on a set date or a particular week, including Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s. Other holidays, however, seem to float and that is the case with Easter. In fact, Easter is being celebrated earlier this year compared to when it was celebrated in 2020.
Many people have been wondering why the dates can change so drastically for such a popular holiday. They also realize that other holidays that are tied to the Easter holiday, including Ash Wednesday, change dates along with it. Some people feel that having Easter celebrated on a set date would be more convenient, but taking a look at these religious holidays can help us to understand why the dates change.
The 40 days prior to Easter start the season known as Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Many people feel that it is appropriate to give up something during this time. Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent, is 46 days before Easter. You have the 40 days of Lent, along with six additional days because Sundays aren’t included. In 2020, Ash Wednesday begins on February 17.
That leads us to the question of why Easter is celebrated on a different day every year. It’s always celebrated on a Sunday, but in 2020, it was on April 12. This year, it is celebrated on April 4. That pushes the date for Ash Wednesday back an additional week. Although it is only a week difference this year, the date that Easter is celebrated can be between March 22 and April 25, depending on the year.
The reason why it is different is because of the moon phases, which don’t line up exactly with the calendar months. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, which is the first full moon after the vernal equinox. That date may change every year, but the church recognizes the vernal equinox as March 21 to keep things simple.
In the first century, the day that Christ died was on the first full moon after the spring equinox, a date known as Nissan 14 on the Jewish calendar. That date is known because Jesus passed the bread and wine to his apostles immediately after the Passover celebration and the Jewish day started after sundown. That wasn’t “Easter” but it was the event that Christians were told by Jesus to continue doing.
Obviously, that event wouldn’t always fall on a Sunday every year, but the church has taken some liberties to celebrate their own version of it. Now you know.SKM: below-content placeholder