October 19, 2008 Q & A

Different Dates for Easter: Part One


Some years Easter is in March and other years it is in April. Why is this? Thank you.


Thank you for your question. Actually, the date of Easter is a controversy that goes back at least to the First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.

Two things should be noted: (1) The Western Church (Roman Catholic and Protestant churches) celebrate Easter on a different date than the date used by the Eastern Church (Greek Orthodox, etc.) and (2) some Protestants (such as the New England Puritans) did not celebrate Christmas or Easter, a conviction shared by some Protestants today in the Puritan tradition.

The Eastern Church follows the Julian Calendar (established by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.); their Easter can be celebrated anywhere from a week to more than a month after the Western churches.

The Western church uses the Gregorian calendar, which was established in A.D. 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a reformed version of the earlier Julian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is 13 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which, coupled with differing definitions of a full moon and an equinox, accounts for the date disparity. (The Gregorian calendar is the one now used worldwide for civil purposes.)

Again, as I suggested above, there are as many as five weeks between the two Easter celebrations. In the Western Church, Easter falls between late March and late April; in the Orthodox Church, it is between early April and early May.

A bit strange, isn't it?



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