When Is Easter?

Easter decoration with Easter eggs.
Easter decoration with Easter eggs.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are some of the most popular Christian holidays. The two holidays mark a period commonly referred to as the Passion of Christ. According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ was arrested, tortured, crucified, died and was buried. However, on the third day, He rose from the dead and was seen by many witnesses. Christ's death is celebrated on a Good Friday while His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Sunday (also known as Resurrection Day). The week before Easter is referred to as the “Holy Week.” Easter is characterized by sunrise service, Easter acclamation, and decorating Easter eggs.

When Is Easter Celebrated?

Easter and the related holidays do not have fixed dates on the Gregorian calendar. Rather, the dates are calculated based on the Hebrew Calendar. Hebrew calendar is similar to the lunisolar calendar used by other cultures around the world such as the Chinese. The First Council of Nicaea convened by Emperor Constantine I in AD 325 in Bithynian city of Nicaea set two rules; that the Jewish calendar would remain independent and that Easter would be celebrated on the same day around the world. However, the Council did not specify which day of the week and how the day would be computed. The computation was worked out in practice, taking centuries and generating controversies. Sunday become a popular day for Easter only because it was already the practice in most places.

According to the Western Christians, Easter falls on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25 in the Gregorian calendar. This Sunday is about 7 days after the astronomical full moon. On the other hand, Eastern Christianity uses the Julian calendar to calculate the day when they celebrate Easter Sunday. So, in the Gregorian calendar, Eastern Christianity celebrates their Easter on any Sunday between April 4 and May 8 (there is a 13-day difference between Gregorian and Julian calendars). However, most countries where Eastern Christianity is practiced have adopted the Gregorian calendar and observe Easter with their Western counterparts.

How Is The Easter Date Computed?

Although Saint Bede suggested that the Sunday following the full moon (Paschal full moon which is the 14th day of a lunar month) was the lawful Easter, he did not follow the ecclesiastical rule. According to this rule, March 21 is considered the starting point and is used to find the next full moon. A lunar year has generally alternating 29-day and 30-day months. An embolismic month is periodically added to align the lunar cycle to the solar cycle. Lunar month falls in the 29 days from March 8 to April 5. This period is referred to as a paschal lunar month. Therefore, the third Sunday (or the Sunday after the 14th day paschal full moon) of the paschal lunar month is designated as the Easter Sunday. Because the complex calculation there has been reforms on the calculations or even have a fixed and unified date (second or third Sunday of April)

When Will Easter Be Observed In 2020 And The Next Three Years?

  • In 2020, Western Christianity will celebrate Easter Sunday on April 12 while Eastern Christianity will celebrate the day on April 19.
  • In 2021, the day will be celebrated on April 4 (Western) and April 11(Eastern).
  • In 2022, Easter will be celebrated on April 17 (Western) and April 24 (Eastern).
  • In 2023, Western Christianity will celebrate Easter on April 9 while their Eastern counterparts will celebrate the day on April 16.

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