Easter is celebrated by the Churches of the West on the first Sunday following a full moon that occurs on or following the Spring Equinox. The Spring Equinox falls on 21st March every year. Because of this Easter is a movable feast which can occur as early as 22nd March or as late as 25th April. An example of this difference can been seen in the Easter dates for last year which were 4th April, but this year Easter Sunday falls on the 24th April.
Historians believe that the celebrating of Easter began with the pagan festival of Eastre. This was a Saxon celebration of spring and fertility. The link between our celebrations today and from the past, can be seen in the importance of symbols such as eggs and rabbits, both ancient pagan symbols of fertility.
In Christian countries, Easter is celebrated as the religious holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar, culminating on the final day of Easter on Easter Sunday, the day Christians celebrate Christs resurrection from the dead. When it is celebrated depends on how the lunar calendar corresponds to the Gregorian calendar in that particular year.
Since the date of Easter changes each year, so do the other Lenten festivals that fix their dates according to Easter, such as Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and is the seventh Wednesday before Easter. Lent refers to the forty-day period leading up to the Easter holiday. Palm Sunday being the final Sunday before Easter Sunday and Good Friday being the Friday before Easter Sunday when Jesus was put to death.
The Greek Orthodox church however, celebrates Easter at a slightly different time to the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. This is because in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church abandoned the Julian calendar in favor of the Gregorian calendar. The Western Church decided to set a fixed date of 21st of March for the vernal equinox and then define the full moon using ecclesiastical calculations.
2011 – Easter Sunday – April 24th
2012 – Easter Sunday – April 8th
2013 – Easter Sunday – March 31st
2014 – Easter Sunday – April 20th
2015 – Easter Sunday – April 5th
2016 – Easter Sunday – March 27th
2017 – Easter Sunday – April 16th
2018 – Easter Sunday – April 1st
2019 – Easter Sunday – April 21st
2020 – Easter Sunday – April 12th
2021 – Easter Sunday – April 4th
The Orthodox Church on the other hand, set the date for Easter based on the astronomical definitions of the full moon and the equinox as they are observed along the meridian of Jerusalem.
Here are the dates for the Greek orthodox Church for the next 10years, some of which will be the same as for the Western Churches.
2011 – Easter Sunday – April 24th (same)
2012 – Easter Sunday – April 15th
2013 – Easter Sunday – May 5th
2014 – Easter Sunday – April 20th (same)
2015 – Easter Sunday – April 12th
2016 – Easter Sunday – May 1st
2017 – Easter Sunday – April 16th (same)
2018 – Easter Sunday – April 8th
2019 – Easter Sunday – April 28th
2020 – Easter Sunday – April 19th
2021 – Easter Sunday – May 2nd