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When is Easter?

The date of Easter is one of the most significant events in the Christian calendar. It is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus after the crucifixion. Unlike Christmas, this event is a moveable feast. The feast is sometimes called the Resurrection Day.

How the Dates are Determined

The reason for its varying dates lie in its origins. In AD 325, the Council of Nicaea was held to determine the time. No particular date was selected. Instead it was decided that the feast would take place on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

The equinox begins on March 21 according to the Julian calendar. Based on this calculation, the date of Easter could happen anytime between March 22 and April 25.

However, other churches have different dates. For example, the Eastern Orthodox Church has a different method for calculating the dates. The reason is that they use the Julian calendar while the Western Church has adopted the Gregorian calendar. As such, there are differences in the dates.

Furthermore it must be noted that the vernal equinox date of March 21 is not entirely accurate astronomically. The reason is that the equinox can take place a couple of days earlier than the 21st.

Date of Easter in Eastern and Western Churches

The diverse methods used in calculations has led to the differences in its observance. In 2009, the Western Church observed it on April 12, in the Eastern Church it would be on the 27th of April. For 2010, both will commemorate on April 4. The date would also be the same in 2011 (April 24). For 2012 it would April 8 in the West and April 15 in the East.

Traditional Ways of Observing the Feast

The day of Jesus’ resurrection marks the culmination of Lent. Contrary to some beliefs, the period does not start on Holy Monday. Lent actually commences on Ash Wednesday. In total, it lasts forty days (Sundays are not counted).

Besides the date of Easter, Palm Sunday is also observed. It is the Sunday before Resurrection Day. In the Bible it was the time when Jesus made his entry into Jerusalem.

The rest of the week particularly Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Black Saturday, are closely observed by pious Christians. These days are marked by prayers and fasting in some countries.

The Vigil

Most Roman Catholics and some Protestant denominations begin observance of Easter on Black / Holy Saturday. It commences with the lighting of a candle and singing some religious hymns. Passages from the Old Testament will be read. In some cases it will be followed by baptism.

Some Christian groups prefer to hold the vigil and the prayers on Sunday mornings instead. These are known as Sunday Services and are particularly prevalent among Protestant groups.

Today the commemoration has been infused with other traditions like the egg hunt and use of greeting cards. In some countries the time of Holy Week has been used as a time to go on vacations. But for most Christians, the date of Easter has not lost its meaning.

Additional Reading Information on Easter:

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