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Why does the Date of Easter Change each Year

Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This holy day is preceded by six weeks of Lent, which is a season of fast and sacrifice for Christians. 

This year Easter was April 24th.  It is not a constant date, such as Christmas and New Year’s Day. It changes yearly.  Why is that?

According to Father James Melnick, of Arkansas, the choosing of the date is in line with the  Jewish custom.  Father James offers this explanation.  “Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring Equinox, which occurred on March 20 Th this year. We had to wait for another full moon before waiting for Easter Sunday.”

This lunar process is repeated yearly. Some years Easter is much earlier than it was in 2011. The above explanation is the reason for the lateness of the holiday this year.

The Nicaea Council, 325 A.D., established the concept of the the date of Easter celebration, by relying on the Spring Equinox. This occurrence usually occurs around the 20th of March. Eastern Christianity used the Julian calendar in determining this date. Father James explains that the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Easter at a different time, because they did not switch to the Gregorian Calender until the 16 Th century.

According to Father James, the word, Easter, comes from an Anglo Saxon god of fertility, Oestre. The feast of Passover is connected to Easter, also.  The Judaic calendar is based on lunar activities, also. On the 14Th day of Nisan, the Jews begin to celebrate Passover.  It is said that Jesus Christ died on the first night of Passover and arose three days later.

The Passover is a commemoration of the exodus of the Holy Family to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod. The King was fearful of the Christ child, so he ordered all children two years old and younger to be killed.  This fear began when the three wise men, following the bright star, consulted with King Herod.  They advised him of the King that was to be born.  King Herod asked them to return to him, after they located the King.  They did not return, and that created a fear for the King.  He then instructed all young boys, age 2 and under, to be slain. This feast also commemorates the Lord opening the Red Sea for the Israelites, saving them from slavery in Egypt. This is the Passover described in the book of Exodus.

The lamb is the symbol of Easter because lamb’s blood was used to designate those who were to be saved. Also, the first unblemished lamb was used for sacrifice by the early Jewish people. Jesus is often refers to the Pascal Lamb, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Easter and the Passover are two feasts that use the Spring Equinox to determine the date.