Why does the date of Easter change every year but not Christmas?
Every year we have to find out when Easter takes place because it’s on different dates in the calendar.
Christmas, however, is on a fixed date of December 25.
And yet both are Christian events merged with pagan holidays of earlier times, so why is one fixed and the other a ‘moveable feast’?
Most historians and scholars agree that Jesus was not born on December 25.
But that date was chosen for Christmas because it corresponded to pagan events that took place at the same time.
These included the Day of The Birth of the Unconquered Sun. This was a festival of the sun god Mithras that saw the winter solstice as the rebirth of the sun as it began to win the battle over darkness.
Saturnalia, a Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn that involved feasts, giving gifts and a carnival atmosphere, also took place around the same time.
By putting a Christian festival on the same date as a pagan festival, the Church made it easy for people to convert to Christianity and give up their old beliefs.
That explain why Christmas was placed on December 25.
So why does the date of Easter change?
Although known today mostly as a time for eating chocolate eggs, Easter is a Christian celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, as described in the Bible.
The Gospels – accounts of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus that are included in the Bible – place the date of the Crucifixion as Friday, April 3, although mention of an eclipse occurring on that day has created further debate.
The year of the Crucifixion has been worked out to be 33 AD by comparing with references to high priest Caiaphas, governor Pontius Pilate and emperor Tiberius Caesar, who all lived around the same time as Jesus.
So, if we know Jesus died on April 3, why is the date of Easter different every year?
It’s because the last week in the life of Jesus – a period known as the Passion – includes a series of connected events that must fall in the right place on the calendar.
These include the Last Supper (on what’s now known as Maundy Thursday) and the Crucifixion (on what we call Good Friday). That was followed two days later by the Resurrection, when Jesus rose from the dead (on Easter Sunday).
The Last Supper was at or around the time of Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt. Passover begins at the full moon.
If Easter was on a fixed date, then Good Friday might not fall on a Friday and the other related dates would be in the wrong place too. So there needs to be a system to work out where it should be every year.
Various early calendars used in different areas meant that originally there was no consensus on the date of Easter.
But then a group of bishops gathered at the First Council of Nicea in 325 AD to lay down rules on how it should be worked out.
They decided that Easter (meaning Easter Day or Easter Sunday) must always be a Sunday. It had to be the first Sunday following the full moon at Passover, the time of the Last Supper.
But because the full moon can fall on different days in different time zones, it was decreed that the date would always be taken as the 14th day of the lunar month, and it must always be the next full moon AFTER the Spring Equinox.
This is now called the Paschal Full Moon, and it can vary by two days from the actual full moon.
Once that date is known, then the Easter holidays can be given their place on the calendar.
Still confused? Then watch the video above.
It’s worth adding that Passover itself is based on the Jewish calendar, which is different to the Gregorian calendar used by the Christian Church to work out Easter.
Every two or three years, a 13th month is included in the Jewish calendar and this can lead to Passover actually taking place after Easter, as happened in 2008.
Sharing is caring 👌 don’t forget to share this post on Pinterest !