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The Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion in Jerusalem is one which has been observed for centuries, with traditions gradually changing across the decades.
What Is Easter?
Easter is the most important feast day in the Christian calendar.
Regularly observed from the earliest days of the Church, Easter 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 (starting from the evening of Maundy Thursday, through Good Friday, Holy Saturday, 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.
Where Did the Word “Easter” Come From?
Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Let’s start with Pascha (Latin) which comes directly from Pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. Going back to the Hebrew Bible and the story of the first Passover, Moses tells the Israelites to slaughter a passover lamb and paint its blood on their door. The Lord protected the Israelites from death by passing over their doors and would not “allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down” (Ex. 12:23).
In the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7), Paul connects the resurrected Christ to Passover. He refers to Jesus as the paschal lamb who has been sacrificed for his people’s salvation. Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples during Passover, so it makes sense that the Feast of the Resurrection is connected with the Jewish holiday. Today, Christians celebrate the “Paschal mystery.”
So, where did the word “Easter” come from? The exact origin of the word “Easter” is unclear. It’s not as simple as saying it has religious origins or pagan origins.
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 following the full Moon that occurs on or just after the spring equinox.
Let’s break it down: In 2022, the spring equinox happens on Sunday, March 20. The first full Moon to occur after that date rises on Saturday, April 16. Therefore, Easter will be observed on the subsequent Sunday, which is Sunday, April 17.
In Christian calendars, the first full Moon of spring is called the “Paschal Full Moon”. So, to put it another way: Easter is observed on the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon.
What Happens When the Full Moon and Spring Equinox Occur on the Same Day?
Generally, if the full Moon occurs on the same day as the spring equinox, Easter is observed on the subsequent Sunday. However, there is a caveat:
Long ago, the Christian Church decided to simplify the process of calculating Easter’s date by always observing the spring equinox on March 21, despite the fact that the equinox date changes over time and is actually getting earlier.
This discrepancy between the astronomical equinox date and the Church’s observed equinox date can sometimes cause confusion, as it did in 2019, when the full Moon and the astronomical equinox occurred on the same day—Wednesday, March 20.
According to the formula above, this should have meant that Easter would be observed on Sunday, March 24. However, because the Church observes the equinox on March 21, the full Moon technically did not occur “on or just after” the equinox, meaning that the next full Moon would determine Easter’s date instead. Thus, in 2019, Easter was held on Sunday, April 21, after the full Moon on Friday, April 19.
What Is the Paschal Full Moon?
The word “Paschal,” which is used in the ecclesiastical (Christian church) calendar, comes from “Pascha,” a transliteration of the Aramaic word meaning “Passover.”
In reference to the full Moon, Paschal refers to the date of the full Moon determined many years ago as the 14th day of a lunar month. Ancient calculations (made in a.d. 325) did not take into account certain lunar motions.
So, the Paschal Full Moon is the 14th day of a lunar month occurring on or after March 21 according to a fixed set of ecclesiastical calendar rules, which does not always match the date of the astronomical full Moon nearest the astronomical spring equinox.
It sounds complicated, but the basic idea is to make it simpler to calculate the date for modern calendars. Rest assured, the dates for Easter are calculated long in advance.
When did Lent start in 2022?
Lent for the year 2022 began on Wednesday March 2 and will end on Thursday April 14 with evening mass on Holy Thursday.
The 40 day observed festival sees many Christians across the world decide to give something up for the duration of lent to pay tribute to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in the days leading up to his death and resurrection.
Traditionally, Christians would fast or observe abstinence throughout the 40 days of lent, repenting and reflecting on their sins, as well as resisting temptation – as Jesus did during his 40 days of fasting and prayer during the desert before dying on the cross, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Lent begins on the day known as Ash Wednesday, which is still commonly observed in the Western world with priests marking the foreheads of mass attendees with ash in the shape of a cross as they recite the dictum: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
These ashes are derived by burning palm leaves used in the previous year’s Palm Sunday rites.
Its final week, known as Holy Week, begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Holy or Maundy Thursday, followed by Good Friday.
The end of lent on Holy Thursday is followed by Good Friday – in which Christians often exchange hot cross buns to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion by the Romans following his sentencing by Pontius Pilate.
When is Easter 2022?
Easter Sunday will fall on Sunday April 17 in 2022.
The Sunday holiday dedicated to Easter celebrations can take place any time between March 22 and April 25 in accordance with lunar patterns and the ecclesiastical calendar.
Easter can be celebrated between 22 March and 25 April due to a set of calculations based on observations of the moon using the Church’s ecclesiastical calendar.
A Christian holiday, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon – Paschal – that occurs on or after the spring equinox.
The spring equinox is when day and night are the same length and occurs each year and is set on 21 March in the ecclesiastical calendar, even if this differs from the astronomical date.
In 2021, the first full moon after the spring equinox is scheduled for Sunday 28 March, meaning Easter will be celebrated the following Sunday on 4 April.
Why is Easter so late in 2022?
With Easter Sunday falling on Sunday April 4 in 2021, this year’s Easter Sunday on April 17 is taking place later than usual.
This is due to the fact that it falls on the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon (known as the ‘Paschal’) after the spring equinox.
This year’s Easter Sunday is the latest it has fallen in the Western Gregorian calendar for three years, having fallen on April 21 in 2019.
In 1943, however, Easter Sunday did not arrive until on Sunday April 25 – as the last ecclesiastical full moon preceding the Paschal did not take place until Saturday March 20.
Only in 2038, in 16 years’ time and 95 years since 1943’s Easter, will we see Easter Sunday fall this late again.
But Easter dates can also differ depending on whether it is being worshipped according to the Gregorian calendar or the Julian calendar – used by Eastern Orthodox Christians.
The 13 day gap between these two calendars means that dates can vastly differ, with the Eastern (Julian) Easter Sunday taking place on Sunday April 24 in 2022.
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