Why is Easter so Early This Year

Why is Easter so early this year? (From Catholic Southampton)
In this section
The Paschal Full Moon
In early Christianity, there were major controversies about the date for celebrating Easter.
Some said it should coincide with the Jewish Passover, which begins on the 14th day of the month Nisan (the Jewish New Year is in September, and Nisan is properly the seventh month of the Jewish year, but according to the Torah is regarded as in first place).
However others said that Easter should always be celebrated on a Sunday, the 'first and greatest day'. 14 Nisan, can fall on any day of the week: in 2008 it corresponds to Sat April 19.
To clear up this mess, a decision was taken at the famous Council of Nicea in the year 325. That Council was also famous for producing the Creed which we recite every Sunday. This was not widely accepted until it was described and defended by St Bede in 725.
The simple definition of Easter is that it is the first Sunday after the full Moon that occurs on or after the vernal (spring) equinox - the Paschal Full Moon. If the full moon falls on a Sunday then Easter is the next Sunday.
Unfortunately this definition is not strictly correct. The vernal equinox used is not the true equinox but an artificial one - always assumed to be on March 21. The full Moon used is not the true full Moon date but based on the Metonic cycle - a period of 19 years in which the phases of the Moon repeat exactly.
These corrections mean the method does not depend upon the time zone in which you live. It also means that the date of Easter can be calculated for years - even centuries - in advance!
Did you know
The most common dates for Easter are 19 April, or 29 March
The least common dates are 22 or 24 March
Easter Sunday falls on 23 March in 2008, and will next fall on this date in 2160
The earliest possible date for Easter is 22 March - this last occurred in 1818 and will next occur in 2285
The latest possible date for Easter is 25 April - this last occurred in 1943 and will next occur in 2038 While the Catholic Church uses the Gregorian calendar (the calendar we use today) to calculate Easter, the Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, which is slightly too long when compared with the actual year we observe. The calendar reform established by Pope Gregory XIII was necessary because the Julian calendar had begun to lag behind astronomical reality - by the time 21 March came around on the calendar, the actual vernal equinox had already happened.
Many countries did not start using the Gregorian calendar until October 1582 (1752 in England). Some countries that switched to the Gregorian calendar used a different definition of Easter for some time (parts of Germany and Sweden used tables based on the observations of astronomer Tycho Brahe to determine Easter for many years after the Gregorian calendar was adopted).
Since 1582 October, when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted by much of Catholic Europe, the Orthodox Easter usually falls on dates different to the Western Christian Easter.
There are reasons to expect that the current methods of determining the date of Easter will not be valid in the far future.
The length of a day is actually increasing, caused by the effect of the tides slowing down the spin of the Earth, so the number of days in a year is slowly decreasing. However, the change is so small that that the Gregorian calendar won't need to drop a day until sometime in the 4th or 5th millenium!
Read more about the history of Easter obeservance and the Gregorian Calendar at Wikipedia.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for that post...every Easter blessing to you!

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