When is Easter, how is the holiday’s date decided and why does it change each year?

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WE know Easter Day is just around the corner when we’re tucking into pancakes on Shrove Tuesday .

But now Pancake Day is nearly upon us and it feels like spring has sprung, when exactly is the big day in 2019?

Alamy

Unlike Christmas and Valentine’s Day, the date of Easter Sunday changes every year[/caption]

When is Easter 2019?

Unlike Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day which all fall on fixed dates, Easter can fall anytime between March 22 and April 25.

In 2019 it falls on Sunday, April 21.

Good Friday is therefore April 19, and the Easter Monday bank holiday is on April 22.

The date is decided by a complex set of calculations based on observations of the moon.

In early Christianity, different churches used different methods, leading to disagreements which remain unresolved centuries later.

Eastern and Western churches continue to celebrate Easter according to different calendars, although sometimes by chance the festivals coincide.

When do the schools break up for Easter 2019?

Schools usually get around two weeks off for the Easter break.

Because Easter is late this year, in most areas kids will be off for the two weeks before.

That means they break up on Friday, April 5, and go back on Easter Tuesday, April 23 – which is also St George’s Day in England.

With the weekends and the bank holiday, that stretches to 17 days.

Other schools might take the two weeks either side of Easter so the two bank holidays fall within the Easter holidays.

Dates vary in different areas so you should check your school or council’s website.

The four-day Easter weekend in 2019 kicks off on Good Friday, April 19

How is the date of Easter decided and why does it change each year?

In Western Christianity, Easter Sunday must always follow the first full moon after the spring equinox.

Easter celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus, which the Bible says happened around the Jewish festival Passover.

Passover typically begins on the night of the first full moon after the spring equinox, except in “leap months” when it is the second full moon, as in 2016.

Because the precise timing of observing the full moon can vary in each time zone, the Church instead calculates the date from ecclesiastical calendar.

This divides 19 normal calendar years into 235 months of 30 and 29 days each, with the ecclesiastical full moon on the 14th day of each lunar month.

The “paschal full moon” – from the Aramaic for Passover – is the one that falls on or after the spring equinox on March 21.

Easter Day is the first Sunday after the paschal full moon – so if the full moon is on a Sunday, Easter will be a week later.

Therefore the earliest Easter can be is March 22, and the latest is April 25.

The latest Easter in recent years was April 23 in the year 2000, and the earliest was March 23 in 2008.

It will not fall in March again until 2024 when it is on March 31.

In 1943 a full moon fell on March 20, just before the equinox, so the paschal full moon was the next one on April 18.

This was a Sunday so Easter was seven days later on April 25.

It will not be this late again until 2038.


Christians in the East use the Julian calendar, 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar used in the West, so the full moon and equinox are calculated according to a different date.

This means in 2019 the Eastern church will celebrate Easter on April 28, a week after Western churches.

Some years, such as in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017, the two churches celebrated Easter on the same day. It will happen next in 2025.

In other years the festivals may be up to five weeks apart, as happened in 2013 and 2016.

 

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