Monday, April 8, 2019

Why Does Easter Move Around?

I prepared this for a Rotary Program on April 9. I hope you find it interesting!

Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after (or on) the Spring Equinox. That’s the short answer. But there’s more …

Why? The resurrection happened the week of Passover. In 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea determined the dating of Easter. Passover was (and is) calculated by the Jewish lunar calendar, not the Gregorian calendar we have used in the West since 1582 (its predecessor, the Julian calendar, is still used in parts of Eastern Orthodox faith and is 13 days “behind").

There are confusing exceptions! The Church’s date of March 21 is considered the spring (vernal) equinox, regardless of time zone, while the actual astronomical event of the equinox varies between March 19 and 22.

This year is one of those “weird years”! The actual equinox was on March 20, while the full moon was March 21 in many time zones. If we followed the actual astronomical event, Easter would have been March 24. This is further complicated in that it is based on the “ecclesiastical” date of the full moon, March 20 (not the actual astronomical date). CONFUSING!

Easter 2019 is based on the next full moon on the “ecclesiastical” calendar, which is April 18.

Earliest and Latest Easter Dates

The “Paschal Full Moon” (another word for it) ranges from March 21 to April 18. Since Easter happens on the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon, it can fall on any date between March 22 and April 25.

Easter lands on March 22 on: 1761, 1818, 2285, and 2353. In other words, forget it, not in OUR lifetimes.

Easter lands on March 23 on: 1788, 1845, 1856, 1913, 2008, 2160, 2228, and 2380. In other words, we saw it ONCE and I hope you enjoyed it, because that’s it!

Easter lands on April 25 on: 1886, 1943, 2038. So my DAD saw it once, and if I live to be 72 I WILL see it once! I hope so!

Easter lands on April 24 on: 1791, 1859, 2011, 2095, 2163, 2231, and 2383. So WE saw it once (and PROBABLY nobody in this room might see it, unless you’re one of our young un’s and if you live to be, like, over 100!).

Why am I interested in this?

My birthday is April 22. When I turned 8 years old, Easter was on my birthday (1973). We had a church egg hunt for my birthday party (never mind that it was Easter, I thought it was just for me!)

In 1984, Easter was on my birthday. I turned 19!

If I live until 2057, my birthday will be on Easter. Can I make it to age 92?