For most holidays, there is a specific date on which they are celebrated year after year. No one needs to be told the date of Christmas or Halloween. Other holidays, like Thanksgiving, have a flexible date due to falling on a certain day of the week. However, Easter is the only holiday that has such a wide variation in its date from year to year. There is basically a month-long span from late March to late April where Easter can occur. Have you ever wondered how the date is selected?
Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. The date that Easter is observed stems from the Bible, where it was written that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead on the Sunday following the Jewish holiday of Passover. The date of Passover changes from year to year in the Jewish calendar, which is based a lunar cycle.
In the early years of Christianity, there was confusion of the dates since the Jewish day begins at sundown rather than sunrise. This led to Easter being celebrated on different dates in different locations. The Roman Emperor Constantine decided to hold a council so that the Christian Church could formulate a more uniform date to celebrate Easter. The First Council of Nicea occurred in the year 325. At this meeting, it was decided to hold Easter on a Sunday every year. They were then able to determine the date of Easter in advance. At the time, however, most of the world used the Julian Calendar, which is different from the Gregorian Calendar that we use now.
Once the Gregorian Calendar became the standard, Easter was determined to be the first Sunday after the first full moon (or on the date of the full moon) that occurs after the Vernal Equinox. This allows Easter to fall between March 22nd and April 25th. Because of the lunar cycle, the date for Easter can vary drastically from year to year. For example, Easter 2011 is April 24th and Easter 2012 is April 8th. Although the dates may seem random at first, the date of this spring holiday is actually determined by long-established factors.
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