Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How is the date for Easter Determined?

Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.

Computus is the term used for the calculation of the date of Easter. Easter is the first Sunday after the 14th day of the lunar month (that is the day of the Full Moon) that falls on or after 21 March.

This method was agreed upon at the council of Nicene (325 A.D.) Because not all lunar months have the same number of days, and because the calculation is tied to the vernal equinox, not to mention the variances of leap years in the solar calendar the actual computation of the Day of Easter is moderately complex. The Eastern Churches, which have a few additional rules, and use the Julian, not the Gregorian calendar celebrates Easter on a different day than the west.

A decade ago there was a move among the Protestant Churches to change the way the date of Easter was calculated. Nothing came of it and all western Christian churches continue to follow the method proscribed by the Catholic Church almost 1700 years ago.

Now for the interesting bits:

This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above!). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier! Here's the facts:

1) The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you're 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).

2) The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year!

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