With Easter just around the corner I thought I would take a look at why Easter is a moveable feast.
The starting point for setting the date for Easter is the Spring Equinox. Astronomically speaking this can be on the 20 to 22 March, but the Christian church back in 325 AD decided to set the date for 21 March. The Council of Nicaea was a group set up by the Early Church to unify Christian practices, one of which was to set the date for Easter in accordance with Roman custom so as to unify calendars and not to coincide with the Jewish Passover.
Interestingly, Eastertime itself though has long been a time of celebration, originating in the pagan festival of Eostre. Eostre was a Germanic goddess of spring, and at the spring festival hares brought eggs as gifts. With the abundance of new season crops, feasting was a big element of the pagan festival, out of which arose the Christian festival. It was perhaps easier to honour the principles of Lent when there was not much food around!
With the equinox officially set for the 21st, this explains why Easter can be so late one year and so early the next. For example, if there is a full moon on the 19th…this is too early by the church’s calendar and therefore Easter will be late in April.
Astronomically speaking, the spring equinox happens when day and night are almost equal, not to be confused with equilux which is the when the hours of daylight are equal to the hours of darkness…the spring equinox actually refers to the time when the sun appears to cross the equator as we tilt towards summertime. Of course, the sun doesn’t move, it is Earth which is tilting on its wobbly journey around the sun. (and yes, the sun rotates but does not orbit us!).
May I wish you all a Happy Easter.