What is the true meaning of Easter Sunday? Why does the date of Easter change every year? What is the Golden Number and how is Easter calculated? Why are eggs associated with Easter? Here are some answers from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
What is Easter Sunday?
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 (Holy Thursday, Good Friday 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 Sunday?
Easter is a “movable feast” and does not have a fixed date, however, it is always on a Sunday.
(Today’s Gregorian calendar)
Eastern Orthodox Church
|2017||April 16||April 16|
|2018||April 1||April 8|
|2019||April 21||April 28|
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 paschal full Moon on or just after the vernal equinox.
For simplicity, the equinox is considered March 21 (a fixed spring date set by the church) though it’s not always that day. The paschal full Moon always falls on the 14th day of a lunar month; because ancient calculations (made in a.d. 325) did not take into account certain lunar motions, it may differ from the actual full Moon date by a day or so.
Easter always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25.
Eastern Orthodox Church
Certain Christian churches, such as many Eastern Orthodox churches, follow the Julian calendar, either for movable feasts or for all religious observances. In this case, the observance can occur between April 4 and May 8 (translating to today’s Gregorian calendar dates).
What is the Golden Number?
Readers often ask us about the Golden Number which is used in calculations for determining the date of Easter.
It’s a number in the 19-year cycle of the Moon. (The Moon repeats the dates of its phases approximately every 19 years.)
Add 1 to any given year and divide the result by 19; the remainder is the Golden Number.
If there is no remainder, the Golden Number is 19.
What Folklore is Associated With Easter?
Folk symbols include:
- Eggs, traditionally forbidden during Lent, symbolize new life.
- The Easter Bunny recalls the hare, the Egyptian symbol of fertility.
Where Did the Word “Easter” Come From?
The origin of the word “Easter” is unclear.
It may have derived its name from the Anglo-Saxon dawn goddess Eostre, whose feast was celebrated each spring at about this time.
Or, it may have derived from words meaning “rising,” “dawn,” or “east.”
Happy Easter from your editors at The Old Farmer’s Almanac!