Why does date of Easter change every year? Date in 2023 - what will it be in 2024 and what was it in 2022
This year Easter Sunday falls on 9 April
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Easter is an important festival in the Christian calendar, celebrating Jesus Christ’s resurrection after his crucifixion on Good Friday. It also marks the end of Lent, a 40 day period of fasting, prayer and penance.
For non-Christians, Easter is a time to socialise with friends and family, as across the world Easter is a public holiday which for some leads to four consecutive days off work. But why does the date of Easter range from year to year, and is it the same date across the world? Here’s what you need to know.
When is Easter?
This year, Easter Sunday falls on 9 April for followers of Western Christianity, and 16 April for Eastern Christianity. In 2022, western Christians will celebrate Easter on 17 April and eastern Christians will celebrate it on 24 April.
Western Christianity is a sub-division made of the Latin Church and Protestantism, developed under the bishop of Rome. Western Christians follow the Gregorian Calendar.
Eastern Christianity, the other subdivision, was developed during classical and late antiquity in western Asia, north west Africa, eastern Europe, south eastern Europe and parts of east Asia.
These bodies of Christianity follow the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. However, all Eastern Orthodox churches base their liturgical calendar on the Julian calendar - however, some use the Revised Julian calendar to help bridge the gap between the two calendars.
Why does the date for Easter change?
Easter is a moveable date and depends on the moon. The date of Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon (known as the paschal full moon) following the vernal equinox in late March.
In 2023, the Spring Equinox happened on Monday 20 March, with the Paschal full moon expected to fall on Thursday 6 April, making Easter on that Sunday - 9 April 2023. In 2022, the vernal equinox - also known as the spring equinox - was on Sunday 20 March at 15:33. The first full moon after Sunday 20 March 2022 is Sunday 10 April 2022, therefore, Easter will take place on Sunday 17 April.
In 2024, Easter will fall earlier, and Easter Sunday will take place on Sunday 31 March and Good Friday will be on 29 March.
This full moon is also an ecclesiastical full moon, as the date to mark Jesus’ resurrection was calculated by using the lunar calendar, and according to the Bible, occurred around the Jewish Passover.
Now, to understand when Easter is, the lunar cycle needs to be translated into the Gregorian calendar.
The history of Easter
The 40 day period before Easter is Lent. The week before Easter Sunday is known as Holy Week, containing the events that led to Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday, and his resurrection three days after.
Holy Week starts on the evening of Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem and was greeted by people placing palm leaves in front of him. Holy Week also marks the arrangement of Judas to betray Jesus, on Holy Wednesday - also known as Spy Wednesday - and the Last Supper, which took place on Maundy Thursday - which also marks the end of Lent.
Jesus was arrested shortly after the Last Supper on the count of blasphemy, as he claimed to be the “Son of God”. Jesus was sent to death by Pontius Pilate, by crucifixion.
According to the Bible, Jesus’ crucifixion at Calvary lasted six hours on Good Friday, with the final three being known as the Three Hours of Agony. The Three Hours of Agony is also a Christian Church service, taking place from 12 pm to 3 pm, where priests and believers read the sermons of the Seven Last Words from the Cross.
Jesus’ resurrection, three days later, is the celebration known as Easter - as written in the New Testament.