Move Easter to a fixed week in April to help parents and businesses, say campaigners

Although a law was passed in 1928 to set the date of the festival, churches have not agreed

The next government will face immediate demands to enforce a law from the 1920s that would fix the date of Easter.

Campaigners believe that holding Easter on the same weekend every year – so that Easter Day fell between 9 and 15 April – could save cash-strapped parents hundreds of pounds in childcare costs, help businesses plan holiday rotas, and let the travel industry prepare better for surges in family holidays. Under the current system, Easter can move by more than a month because of the use of both solar and lunar calendars to determine the date.

Just before the dissolution of Parliament last month, Sir Greg Knight, a Conservative who is defending his East Yorkshire seat at next month’s general election, asked ministers if there were any plans to implement a provision in the Easter Act of 1928 to fix the date. This would require the approval of Christian churches, and Business minister Jo Swinson said there was “no indication” they would agree to the idea.

Sir Greg said that he has asked the question after frustrated constituents had mentioned the matter to him. He said: “It does seem a bit odd that, 87 years after Parliament agreed that Easter should be on a fixed date, we’re still waiting for the churches to make up their minds. This has been on the statute book for a long time.”

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The Archbishop of York, right, performing a baptism on Saturday (PA)

The question prompted the National Secular Society (NSS) to write to David Cameron last week to demand a set date, pointing out that the Vatican had accepted the idea in principle more than half a century ago.

The letter said: “The variation of date of Easter, by over a month, causes significant and unnecessary inconvenience. This is particularly disruptive to the orderly planning of school terms and to business.”

The letter also called for shops to be allowed to open on Easter Day. It said: “We support the rights of those who wish to observe Easter, but it is unreasonable and disrespectful to the remainder of the population for the operation of the law to prevent them from shopping then in such outlets. It is also an unwarranted restriction on business.

Keith Porteous Wood, the NSS’s executive director, said this weekend: “Easter’s variable date is an unnecessary burden on planning the school year and on business, especially the holiday industry. The NSS calls on the Prime Minister to encourage church leaders to fix a date, as provided for in the Easter Act 1928.”

 

The Local Government Association and the Family and Childcare Trust believe that, at the very least, the two-week school Easter holiday should be the same every year. This would allow parents to be able to arrange childcare in advance, while nurseries and clubs could ensure that they have plenty of staff available on those dates. This would reduce the provider’s costs, while families would have time to find the best value childcare options or prepare family to help them.

At present, the movable Christian Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after (but never on) the Paschal full moon. Theoretically, the Paschal full moon is the first full moon occurring on or after the spring equinox. However, this day can be reckoned in different ways. One way is by looking at the sky, which yields the astronomical spring equinox. But since this shifts from year to year, most people follow the calendrical spring equinox, which is reckoned as 21 March.

On the Gregorian calendar, which the UK uses, Easter is the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the first full moon on or after 21 March. Easter thus always falls between 22 March and 25 April.

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