Easter Sunday: Why Christians celebrate it on two different dates

3:17 PM, Mar 22, 2008   |    comments
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But if you follow the Julian calendar, as Orthodox Christian churches do, Easter won't arrive this year until April 27. OK, but does that mean the Easter Bunny makes two trips this year? All kidding aside, having two Easters is not unusual at all but exactly why are there two Easters? Western Christian churches compute the date according to rules established during the Gregorian calendar reform in 1582. The Gregorian calendar, developed under Pope Gregory XIII, is the one now used worldwide for civil purposes. For the Gregorian calendar, Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs next after the vernal equinox (first day of spring). In 1582, Orthodox churches decided to keep following the Julian calendar, developed by Julius Caesar. From then on, the Julian calendar date of Oct. 4, 1582 was followed by the Gregorian calendar date of Oct. 15, 1582. The 10 dates of October 5 to 14 were removed. Consequently, Orthodox Easter Sunday dates are identical with Western dates up to 1582, then from 1583 onwards often differ from those of Western churches. Orthodox churches celebrate their Easter always on the basis of the Julian calendar and the "19 PFM dates" table. The PFM stands for "Paschal Full Moon," another name for the Worm Moon. In some years, the Orthodox Easter Sunday occurs on the same day as the Western Easter Sunday. For example, this occurred in 1990 because the Western Easter Sunday date of (Gregorian calendar) April 15, 1990 is the same as the Orthodox Easter Sunday date of (Julian calendar) April 2, 1990. In most years, Orthodox Easter follows Western Easter by one or more weeks. To determine the Orthodox Easter Sunday date, take the date of the Gregorian Easter Sunday, then add the number of days which have been "skipped" in the Gregorian calendar. Easter is the most important religious feast in the Christian liturgical year. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, which Christians believe occurred on the third day after his crucifixion, about 33 A.D. Many non-religious cultural elements have become part of the holiday, like hiding Easter baskets and getting chocolate Easter candy, and even the Easter Bunny himself. But the chocolate aside, eggs and the bunny are also symbols of fertility, symbols of the first day of spring and the planting of the new crops by the farmers.

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