WHEN IS EASTER 2019? | HOW THE EASTER DATE IS DETERMINED

March 26, 2019

WHEN IS EASTER 2019? | HOW THE EASTER DATE IS DETERMINED

WHY DOES THE DATE OF EASTER CHANGE EVERY YEAR?

Why is Easter so late this year? Usually, Easter is on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the vernal equinox. We’ll explain—plus, find out how the date of Easter is determined and why it changes every year!

Easter is the most important holiday on the Christian calendar—and has been regularly observed from the earliest days of the Church.

Easter Sunday celebrates Christ’s resurrection from the dead, following crucifixion. It marks the end of Holy Week, the end of Lent, and the last day of the Easter Triduum (starting from the evening of Maundy Thursday, through Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday), as well as the beginning of the Easter season of the liturgical year.

The resurrection represents the triumph of good over evil, sin, death, and the physical body.

WHEN IS EASTER 2019?

Easter is a “movable feast” and does not have a fixed date; however, it is always held on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25.

Many Eastern Orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian. In this case, the observance of Easter can occur between April 4 and May 8.

Year

Easter Sunday
(Gregorian calendar)

Eastern Orthodox Church
(Julian calendar)

2019

April 21

April 28

2020

April 12

April 19

2021

April 4

May 2

 

HOW IS THE DATE OF EASTER DETERMINED?

Would you believe that the date of Easter is related to the full Moon?

Specifically, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full Moon that occurs on or just after the spring equinox.

Interestingly, in 2019, the full Moon and the spring equinox fall on the SAME day—Wednesday, March 20. The full Moon—cresting at 9:43 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time—follows the spring equinox by less than four hours. See Bob’s post, “Full Moon on the Spring Equinox.”

On religious calendars, the first full moon of spring is called the “Paschal Full Moon” (which we’ll explain below). Traditionally, Easter is observed on the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon. (If the Paschal Moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter lands on the subsequent Sunday.)

EASTER COULD HAVE BEEN IN MARCH

Following these rules, the full Moon on March 20 (the first full Moon of spring) should be the “Paschal Full Moon.” So, why isn’t Easter on Sunday, March 24?

As it turns out, to make things a little simpler for the Christian Church calendars, the spring equinox was determined to always be fixed on March 21. (In reality, the equinox can happen on March 19, 20, or 21.)

Given this, the first full Moon after March 21 doesn’t occur until April 19 this year. That means … Easter will be celebrated on Sunday, April 21.

As mentioned above, Easter can fall as early as March 22 and as late as April 25.  So, now we have a rather late Easter!

The full Moon in April (on the 19th) will occur on the Good Friday this year. Passover also begins on the 19th.

For those who want to dig a little deeper:

The word “Paschal,” which refers to the ecclesiastical (Christian church) calendar, comes from “Pascha,” a transliteration of the Aramaic word meaning Passover.

We are referring to a date of the full Moon determined many years ago as the 14th day of a lunar month. Ancient calculations (made in a.d. 325) did not take into account certain lunar motions.

So, the Paschal Full Moon is the 14th day of a lunar month occurring on or next after March 21 according to a fixed set of ecclesiastical calendar rules, which does not always match the date of the astronomical full Moon nearest the astronomical spring equinox.

It sounds complicated, but the basic idea is to make it simpler for modern calendars. Rest assured, the dates for Easter are calculated long in advance.

WHAT IS THE GOLDEN NUMBER?

Readers often ask us about the Golden Number, which was traditionally used in calculations for determining the date of Easter.

The Golden Number is a value used to show the dates of new Moons for each year, following a 19-year cycle.

The Moon repeats the dates of its phases approximately every 19 years (the Metonic cycle), and the Golden Number represents a year in that cycle. The year of the cycle can then be used to determine the date of Easter.

To Calculate the Golden Number:

Add 1 to any given year and divide the result by 19, ensuring that you calculate to the nearest whole number; the remainder is the Golden Number. If there is no remainder, the Golden Number is 19.

For example, to calculate the Golden Number for 2019, we take 2019 and add 1, resulting in 2020, then divide it evenly by 19, giving us 106 with a remainder of 6. Therefore, the Golden Number for 2019 is 6, meaning 2019 is the 6th year of the Metonic cycle.

EASTER TRADITIONS AND FOLKLORE

An Easter tradition seen around the world is the coloring of eggs. Bright, artificial dyes are popular now, but some folks still use natural dyes, such as those made from onion skins or beets, to give their eggs a more natural, earthy look. In parts of Eastern Europe, it’s tradition to create intricate designs on the egg with wax or twine before coloring.

Easter folk symbols include:

  • Eggs,traditionally forbidden during Lent, symbolize new life.
  • The Easter Bunnyrecalls the hare, the Egyptian symbol of fertility.
  • The lambis said to symbolize Jesus, as it embodies purity and goodness, but also represents sacrifice.
  • The Easter lily, with its sheer white petals, symbolizes purity and innocence, as well as the resurrection of Jesus.

WHERE DID THE WORD “EASTER” COME FROM?

The exact origin of the word “Easter” is unclear. However, it may have derived its name from the Anglo-Saxon dawn goddess Eostre, whose feast was celebrated each spring at about this time.

Alternatively, it may have derived from words meaning “rising,” “dawn,” or “east.”

HAPPY EASTER!

We wish you a Happy Easter and a joyous spring season!


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