Easter is a Christian festival celebrated across the world. It is a Christian festival but happily celebrated by some non-christians. It is also known as Paschal and generally regarded as the most important festival and holiday of the Christian year. It is observed usually in March or April each year to celebrate the crucifixion, death and more importantly the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This season spans a little over two months and ends with the day of Pentecost.
Have you ever wondered why the date for Easter celebration varies every year? Relax, follow me as I unambiguously unravel the reasons behind it.
One school of thought believes the name Easter is derived from' Ostara' or 'Eostre', a pagan goddess of fertility whose feast is celebrated on the Vernal Equinox. This does not relate to Christianity so let's delve more into other findings.
The other school of thought links Easter to the name Pesach, the Hebrew name of Passover, a Jewish holiday to which most Christians ascribe. This is buttressed by the Gospel of John which states that the last supper of Jesus Christ with his apostles took place during a specific part of the Passover traditions. Easter, therefore, depends on Passover not only for much of its symbolic meaning but also for its position in the calendar. Passover commemorates the freeing of the children of Israel from captivity in Egypt.
The dates when Easter is celebrated is not fixed but varies from year to year. Why is this different from other Christian holidays for instance Christmas day, which is always celebrated on December 25th every year?
The problem is that the Gospels are not very clear on the specific date of Easter. Matthew, Mark and Luke indicate one season, whereas John indicates a different season. (Matt 27:62; 28:1; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:31, 42) As the centuries passed, this lack of clarity around the date meant there was no standard date for Easter..
It was only after several attempts to set a standard date for Easter, that the formula of the Alexandrian Church was accepted as the correct way to determine the date. With this method and a passing nod to the method of calculating Passover, Easter is placed on the first Sunday after the first full moon which occurs March.
The full moon is the lunar phase when the Moon appears fully illuminated from Earth's perspective. This occurs when Earth is located between the Sun and the Moon. This means that the side of the moon facing Earth appears very bright as a circular disk. The first Sunday after this occurrence is Easter.
The earliest date that Easter can be is March 22nd and the latest is April 25th.
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