That silly Easter bunny and the date of Easter Sunday have been hopping around together for centuries. Easter Sunday can actually fall anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th; so when is Easter 2016? This year, Easter Sunday is March 27, 2016.
2016 Easter calendar:
- March 20, 2016: Palm Sunday
- March 25, 2016: Good Friday
- March 27, 2016: Easter Sunday
So why exactly do the dates of Easter Sunday change every year? As with any complex schedule, there is a short and sweet answer, as well as a more in depth explanation; let’s start with the short and sweet.
Why does Easter Sunday date change? Here are the short and long reasons listed on christianity.about.com.
Short and Sweet answer:
The early church fathers wished to keep the observance of Easter in correlation to the Jewish Passover. Because the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ happened after the Passover, they wanted Easter to always be celebrated subsequent to the Passover. And, since the Jewish holiday calendar is based on solar and lunar cycles, each feast day is movable, with dates shifting from year to year. From here, the explanation grows more complicated.
Why does Easter Sunday date change? In depth answer:
Today in Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon date of the year. It has been previously, and somewhat erroneously stated, “Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox.” This statement was true prior to 325 A.D.; however, over the course of history (beginning in 325 A.D. with the Council of Nicea), the Western Church decided to established a more standardized system for determining the date of Easter.
In actuality, the date of the Paschal Full Moon is determined from historical tables, and has no correspondence to lunar events. As astronomers were able to approximate the dates of all the full moons in future years, the Western Christian Church used these calculations to establish a table of Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates. These dates would determine the Holy Days on the Ecclesiastical calendar.
Though modified slightly from its original form, by 1583 A.D. the table for determining the Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates was permanently established and has been used ever since to determine the date of Easter. Thus, according to the Ecclesiastical tables, the Paschal Full Moon is the first Ecclesiastical Full Moon date after March 20 (which happened to be the vernal equinox date in 325 A.D.). So, in Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon.
The Paschal Full Moon can vary as much as two days from the date of the actual full moon, with dates ranging from March 21 to April 18. As a result, Easter dates can range from March 22 through April 25 in Western Christianity.
Similarly to understanding Leap Year, the Easter Sunday hop can be confusing as well. To save you from what may be painful calculations, here are the Easter Dates for 2016 – 2020:
- 2016: March 27, 2016
- 2017: April 16, 2017
- 2018: April 1, 2018
- 2019: April 21, 2019
- 2020: April 12, 2020
So mark your calendars and be sure to stock up on Easter eggs, Easter candy and groovy spring cupcakes!
Don’t forget other fun Easter traditions and ideas:
Teach the meaning of Easter with Resurrection rolls
Learn how to store and boil eggs
Easy recipe for hot cross buns
Easter coloring pages