Easter 2024 will be observed on Sunday, March 31. The most important Christian holiday, Easter, is a “movable feast.” Why does it change everyyear?
What are the commonest and rarest Easter dates? How is the date determined? Where did the word “Easter” come from? Find answers to these questions on our Everything-Easterpage.
When Is Easter2024?
This year, Easter Sunday will be observed on Sunday, March 31.This is based on the Gregorian calendar. However, many Eastern Orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian. In 2024, Eastern Orthodox Easter will occur on Sunday, May 5(the Julian calendar date converted to the Gregoriancalendar).
Easter and the Paschal Full Moon
The Surprising Origins of Easter Symbols: From Lambs to Lilies
Passover 2024: When Does Passover Start?
|Eastern Orthodox Church|
(Julian calendar date converted to Gregorian)
|2024||March 31||May 5|
|2025||April 20||April 20|
|2026||April 5||April 12|
|2027||March 28||May 2|
Is Easter Always in March orApril?
Easter is a “movable feast,” so it doesn’t happen on the same date from year to year. In the Gregorian calendar, it is always observed on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. However, in the Eastern Orthodox church, Easter can be observed between April 4 andMay8.
What Is the Most Common EasterDate?
Over a 500-year period (from 1600 to 2099 AD), it just so happens that Easter will have most often beencelebrated on either March 31 or April16.
What is the Most Unusual EasterDate?
According to long-term averages, the most unusual Easter date is March 22. The second place goes to April 24, and the third place goes to March23.
How Is The Date of EasterDetermined?
Easter Sunday always occurs on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon.What is the Paschal Full Moon? This is specifically the first Sunday following the full Moon that occurs on or after the March or spring equinox.
While Christmas is fixed to a solar calendar (and near the winter solstice), Easter is based on the lunar cycles of the Jewish calendar. In the Christian religion, the Last Supper (the final meal Jesus shared with his apostles before his crucifixion) was a Passover feast. It’s because Easter is based on a lunar month (which is 29.5 days) that the date of Easter canvary.
Note that the spring equinox date used by the Christian Church is always March 21 to simplify matters. In fact, the astronomical date of theequinox can shift by a day or so. In 2023, the astronomical date of the equinox is Monday, March 20. So, you’ll often see this called the “ecclesiastical”equinox (i.e., the date used by theChurch).
What Happens When the Full Moon and Spring Equinox Occur on the SameDay?
Generally, if the full Moon occurs on the same day as the spring equinox, Easter is observed on the subsequentSunday. However, there is acaveat:
As mentioned above, the Christian Church decided to simplify 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 gettingearlier.
This discrepancy between the astronomical equinox date and the Church’s observed equinox date can sometimes cause confusion, as in 2019 when the full Moon and the astronomical equinox occurred on the same day—Wednesday, March20.
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, April19.
What Is the Paschal FullMoon?
The word “Paschal,” which is used inthe ecclesiastical (Christian church) calendar, comes from “Pascha,” a transliteration of the Aramaic word meaning“Passover.”
In reference to the full Moon, Paschal refersto 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 consider certain lunarmotions.
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 springequinox.
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. See past and future Easter dates here.
What Is the GoldenNumber?
Readers often ask us about the Golden Number, traditionally used in calculations for determining the date ofEaster.
The Golden Number is a value used to show the dates of new Moons for each year, following a 19-yearcycle.
The Moon repeats the dates of its phases approximately every 19 years (the Metonic cycle), and the Golden Number represents a year in that cycle. The year of the cycle can then be used to determine the date ofEaster.
To Calculate the GoldenNumber:
Add 1 to any given year and divide the result by 19, ensuring that you calculate to the nearest whole number; the remainder is the Golden Number. If there is no remainder, the Golden Number is19.
For example, to calculate the Golden Number for 2022, we take 2022 and add 1, resulting in 2023, then divide it evenly by 19, giving us 106 with a remainder of 9. Therefore, the Golden Number for 2022is 9, meaning 2022 is the 9th year of the Metoniccycle.
Easter is the holiest day in the Christian calendar. It observes the most central tenet of the Christian faith—that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. The resurrection represents the triumph of good over evil, sin, death, and the physicalbody.
Easter Sunday marksthe 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 liturgicalyear.
Where Did the Word “Easter” ComeFrom?
Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from thedead.
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).
Paul connects the resurrected Christ to Passover in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7). He refers to Jesus as the paschal lamb 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 “Paschalmystery.”
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 paganorigins.
Some historians suggest that it came from the phrase hebdomada alba, Latin for “white week,” used to describe the white garments new Christians wore when they were baptized during Holy Week. In Old German, the word became esostarum and, eventually,Easter.
The Venerable Bede, a seventh-century Anglo-Saxon historian also known as Saint Bede, writes that the word Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon dawn goddess of fertility Eostre, also the goddess of the dawn, who originated in what is now Scandinavia. Over time, early Christians started referring to the Feast of the Resurrection by the name of the month in which it was celebrated—Eosturmonath (what we now callApril).
Alternatively, Eastermay have from an old German word for “east,” which in turn is derived from a Latin word for “dawn.” In the past, the word eastercould mean “to turn toward the east” or “rising” and didn’t necessarily have any implied religious meaning.(Note: It was the Germans who invented the “Easter Bunny” who visited “good” children’s homes, much like they invented SantaClaus.)
Bottom line, no one truly knows the etymologicalorigins of the word, “Easter.” It is one of the oldest Old Englishwords.
In the end, it is unimportant whether Easter comes from the goddess of the dawn or the Latin word for dawn. In whatever language,Easter today is a Christian holiday tocelebrate Christ’s resurrection—and the reminder that death bringslife.
Our Favorite EasterRecipes
Traditional Easter dishes include seasonal produce as well as symbols of spring such as lamb, ham, eggs, asparagus, spring peas, hot cross buns and sweet breads, and a carrotcake.
We have all the traditional Easter recipes and more! Check out our Favorite Easter Recipes.
From all the Editors here at The Old Farmer’s Almanac, we wish you a Happy Easter and a joyous springseason!
Easter is determined by the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal (or spring) equinox. For example, in 2024, the vernal equinox is on 20th March and the following full moon is on 30th March. Therefore, Easter is on the 30th.What determines date of Easter? ›
The simple standard definition of Easter is that it is the first Sunday after the full Moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. If the full Moon falls on a Sunday then Easter is the next Sunday.How far in advance is Easter decided? ›
Easter falls on the first Sunday after the Full Moon date, based on mathematical calculations, that falls on or after March 21. If the Full Moon is on a Sunday, Easter is celebrated on the following Sunday.Why is Easter so late in 2024? ›
In 2024, the Easter weekend will fall on Friday, March 29 and last until Sunday, March 31. Easter's exact date depends on the moon, hence why it changes ever year. The holiday is set to coincide with the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, the first full moon of spring.Is the exact date of Easter different every year? ›
Easter's exact date may seem arbitrary, but it's always on the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, and that can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.How accurate is the date of Easter? ›
For those who might not know, Easter is not tied to a specific date — in contrast to Old Reliable Christmas, which is Dec. 25 every year. Easter wanders. It ranges from March 22 to April 25, meaning it can happen on 35 different dates.What is the most common date for Easter? ›
In 500 years (from 1600 to 2099 AD) Easter was and will be most often celebrated on either March 31 or on April 16 (22 times each). This year, the date falls on April 4.How much can the date of Easter vary? ›
The holiday, which celebrates Christ's resurrection from the grave following his crucifixion, can occur on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25. (That's a pretty wide range!) Easter's exact date varies so much because it actually depends on the moon.Why does the date for Easter always change? ›
As a moveable feast, the date of Easter is determined in each year through a calculation known as computus (Latin for 'computation'). Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the first full moon on or after 21 March (a fixed approximation of the March equinox).What is the 40 day period before Easter? ›
Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter.
In 2024, which is a leap year, Easter is March 31 and Passover starts April 22. In 2025, Easter is April 20 and Passover starts April 12. In 2026, Easter is April 5 and Passover starts April 1.Why does Easter change dates but Christmas doesn t? ›
Christmas is fixed to a solar calendar and falls near the winter solstice, which is a fixed date on the calendar. Easter, on the other hand, is based on the lunar cycles of the Jewish calendar. The lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, which are shorter than the cycles of the sun.Is Easter early or late in 2024? ›
The first full moon after the 2024 spring equinox will brighten the sky on March 25, a Monday. Easter will be celebrated the following Sunday, March 31 on the Gregorian calendar used by Western Christians.Why does the Easter Bunny bring eggs? ›
Eggs, just like the rabbit, have long been considered an ancient symbol of fertility, rebirth and new life, all associated with the springtime celebration of Easter! From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs represent Jesus' resurrection and his emergence from the tomb.Why is Easter always on a Sunday? ›
In the West the Resurrection of Jesus was celebrated on the first day of the week, Sunday, when Jesus had risen from the dead. Consequently, Easter was always celebrated on the first Sunday after the 14th day of the month of Nisan.What's the earliest and latest Easter can be? ›
By ecclesiastical rules set centuries ago, there are 35 dates on which Easter can take place. The earliest possible date for Easter is March 22 and the latest possible date is April 25. Easter can never come as early as March 21, though. That's because, by ecclesiastical rules, the vernal equinox is fixed on March 21.Why does Easter have 2 dates? ›
Did you know that there are two different dates for the Easter holiday? There is one for the Catholic Church and one for the Orthodox Church. On rare occasions the two dates fall on the same day. The reasoning behind the different dates comes down to the church and the modern day calendar.Why does the day of Easter change every year? ›
(That's a pretty wide range!) Easter's exact date varies so much because it actually depends on the moon. The holiday is set to coincide with the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, the first full moon after the vernal equinox.Why are there 2 different Easters? ›
Both believe in Holy week, and Palm Sunday leading up to Easter. However, the dates for these celebrations differ based on which calendar is used. Orthodox Christians use the Julian Calendar designed by Julius Caesar in 45 BC whereas western Christains use the Gregorian Calendar created by Pope Gregory in 1582.Why does Easter change every year but Christmas doesn t? ›
Christmas is fixed to a solar calendar and falls near the winter solstice, which is a fixed date on the calendar. Easter, on the other hand, is based on the lunar cycles of the Jewish calendar. The lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, which are shorter than the cycles of the sun.