By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Easter is still two weeks away, falling on April 24 this year. Last year Easter was on April 4. Some years it’s March. The varying dates have even some avid churchgoers confused.

Cherie in White Bear Lake wanted to know, “Why is Easter so late this year?”

It’s a Good Question that led us to a physics lab. Yes, a physics lab.

“Easter is determined more astronomically than by the church,” said Dr. Terry Flower, who teaches astronomy at St. Catherine University.

The simple answer about when Easter happens is that it’s always the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

“We’ll have a full moon next Monday. It’ll be the first Sunday following that full moon,” said Flower.

The process dates to the fourth century, when people around the world were celebrating the rebirth of Christ on different dates.

The Council of Nicea wanted to get everyone in line. They set an official ecclesiastical equinox on March 21. Then they looked for the first full moon.

But the full moon can fall on two different dates, depending on where you live. So in 1583, Christoph Clavius came up with a calculation to standardize the Paschal Full moon. Easter falls on the next Sunday.

“It’s almost the latest it can be this year,” said Flower.

Because of the length of a lunar cycle, Easter is never later than April 25. That’ll happen in 2038. The earliest is March 22.

Flower said, just like Christmas isn’t really about December 25th, with Easter, “the exact date we do that doesn’t really matter that much.”

However, every once in awhile there’s a move to try to lock down Easter to one date like Christmas. But because Christians believe Jesus was killed after Passover, and because Passover’s dates are also linked to the moon, the World Council of Churches has never seriously considered it.

Comments (26)
  1. Really? says:

    Should Easter really be celebrated? Rabbits, eggs, chicks, what do they have to do with Jesus? Why does Jesus’ resurrection always land on a Sunday? Is the resurrection what he wanted memorialized? Some things to think about…

    1. Dyslexic Agnostic says:

      I don’t believe there is a Dog.

    2. markH says:

      Easter has always been about the celebration of the vernal equinox. The word Easter (Eostre – a pagan Anglo-Saxon Goddess-
      this mythical figure is said to have been the goddess of the sunrise and the spring.) Easter has historically been a celebration of the “re-birth” of things following the winter season, but Christianity during the 4th century “borrowed” the holiday as one of celebration of the resurrection of their Jesus character, nothing else. This is fine, but remember that it is indeed a pagan holiday to celebrate spring, not the claim of Jesus’ followers that he arose from the dead.

      1. Really/ says:

        Trying to mix true worship with pagan worship equals false worship, it does not make the pagan teachings correct. The Bible says we should remember Jesus death and sacrifice, not his resurrection or re-birth.

        1. Iconoclast says:

          Christmas and Easter are both Christian holidays grafted on to previously existing pagan traditions because the pagans were going to go ahead and practice those traditions anyway. It’s Christianity that’s false worship. Long after Christianity is gone people will still be celebrating the rebirth of the world in spring. It’s in our souls to do so. No sense mucking up the the simple connection we have with nature by sticking some human centric god image in the way. We would all be better off if more people got that through their fearful narrow little minds.

          1. Really? says:

            Sadly we live in a world where there are no wrongs and everything that was right is now wrong.

          2. Really? says:

            Actually opening our minds has closed them to the possibility that we have the wrong information and “facts”.

            1. Patrick says:

              Good one….Putting facts in quotes like somehow people are so unsure of the world they will begin to doubt reason.

    3. Really? says:

      I don’t celebrate it and I am relaxed. I am just trying to get people to think instead of just following along with everyone else. True worship should be true.

    4. K. says:

      Of course it’s the resurrection that Jesus wants memorialized. The resurrection is what everything in Christianity is all about. In fact, believe it or not, for all Christians, Easter is a greater celebration than Christmas. I mean, yes, Jesus came into the world (celebrated on Christmas Day) but what he came into the world for (dying on the cross for our sins and rising again (Easter) is the biggest celebration of all.

  2. Andre says:

    Quote: ‘“Easter is determined more astronomically than by the church,” said Dr. Terry Flower, who teaches astronomy at St. Catherine University.’ /quote

    The Church does in fact determine Easter because the Church made the decision to put Easter on the Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox.

    Quote: “Should Easter really be celebrated? Rabbits, eggs, chicks, what do they have to do with Jesus? Why does Jesus’ resurrection always land on a Sunday? Is the resurrection what he wanted memorialized? Some things to think about…” /quote

    Rabbits, eggs and chicks are a pagan tradition and have nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday and so Easter always is on a Sunday. The Lord’s resurrection has always been what is celebrated in the Church from the earliest days, and has always been celebrated on the “first day of the week” which amongst the Israelites has always been Sunday. In fact each Sunday is a “mini-Easter”. So the answer is, yes, really. 🙂

    1. markH says:

      “Quote: “Should Easter really be celebrated? Rabbits, eggs, chicks, what do they have to do with Jesus? Why does Jesus’ resurrection always land on a Sunday? Is the resurrection what he wanted memorialized? Some things to think about…” /quote”

      Another thing to think about is where is the proof that Jesus is in fact a historical person? Where is the proof (and we need some actual, verifiable, testable, empirical evidence here for this amazing claim) that he actually came back to life after being dead about 2 days. These are incredibly large and fantastic claims that are assumed to be factual by most believers, who never take a moments pause to investigate the facts behind them. The fact is that the followers of Jesus believed (based upon what Jesus said) that the world would end shortly after his death, not more than 2000 years later. Credulity and superstition and fear have built a myth into an unquestioned reality for millions.

      1. K. says:

        I base everything on faith. If you are right and I am wrong (that there is no God), then nothing happens. But……..if I am right and you are wrong (that there is, indeed a God who had a son Jesus who died for us), then you will have eternity to think about it.

    2. Really? says:

      Does your date of birth always land on the same day of the week? So why would Jesus resurrection always land on a Sunday. This was chosen for convenience by “Christians”.

  3. betty says:

    The name “Easter” originated with the names of an ancient Goddess and God. Easter isn’t really a Christian thing, they stole it!

  4. Realist says:

    I like Santa…

  5. Cindy says:

    “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof”- Christopher Hitchens

  6. Nat says:

    This wasn’t a question if you believe in God. Why do all you non-believers have to use everything to try and prove your theory. If you don’t believe, good for you. I choose to believe, but i don’t run around trying to prove it to you. So stick to the topic at hand. I never knew why Easter landed on different dates, thank you WCCO for the Good Question. Bring on the chicks, eggs, and rabbits it will be a great day for my kids and nice to see all my family.

    1. blp says:

      Amen to that, Nat!!I ..

    2. markH says:

      I’m just curious if one can “choose” to believe anything. I think (logically) that a person can only believe a proposition for which he/she has very good reasons. I have good reasons to believe that my car will start in the morning (based upon previous observation), yet if it fails to start I do not seek a supernatural explanation for the failure. If someone told me that a person who was previously dead a few days ago was up and walking around talking to people, I would want some actual evidence of this claim (not hearsay and legend-building written by previously unknown authors) to substantiate this amazing claim. Peace.

    3. markH says:

      Largely because so many “believers” seek to shape public and foreign polices based on these ideas. The faith-based obstruction to federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and the abject failures of our “abstinence only” sex education policies in some states demonstrates these facts. If one believes, then fine with me. As long as they keep it to themselves and other like-minded individuals, it causes me no harm. But when these fantastic notions somehow become part of a policy for which I not only pay for, but adhere then my patience for this nonsense ends. Peace.

      1. AThomas says:

        This is a bit off the Easter Topic but I recently wrote an English on the very fact that faith needs to stay out of our governmental policies, that only rational thought and common sense should be the main tools for making government policies.

  7. Bob says:

    It is a historical fact that when the Christian religion was first being spread across the world, many religious leaders recognized that the “new” religion would be better accepted by the followers of the “old” religion if they incorporated aspects of each. Therefore, many of the Christian Holidays have some pagan symbols associated with them. ie. rabbits, chicks on easter. If people would just except that not everyone is going to believe all the same things and join in the idea that the seasons are joyous and celebrated by most, all be it in different ways, it would be great.

  8. Believer says:

    “The Truth that makes men free is, for the most part, the Truth which men prefer not to hear” – Herber Agar

  9. Greg says:

    “Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religion.” more blood is spilled more people are killed than for ANY other reason than religion

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