Easter already! Blame it on the bishops

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The Independent Online

Annoyed that Easter is so early this year? Family life complicated by school and religious holidays being separated? Today, we name and shame the men responsible. Step forward Aristakes of Armenia, Protogenes of Sardica, Spyridion of Trimythous, and Eusebius of Caesarea. It was they, and several hundred other bishops, who decided at a meeting 1,683 years ago how we should lead our leisure lives today.

The Council of Nicea in AD325, to which all the leading clerics of the Christian world were invited, had been called by the Roman Emperor Constantine, and it had three main results: 1) the Nicene Creed (the first unified Christian doctrine); 2) providing an early and convincing-sounding Christian event for Dan Brown to misrepresent in The Da Vinci Code; and 3) determining when Easter falls.

Before Nicea, this was tied to the Jewish feast of Passover. After it, the day was set as the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal (spring) equinox. This latter event, something of a movable feast in those days, is now fixed on 21 March. Thus, the earliest that Easter Sunday can be is 22 March, the latest, 25 April. This year's date of 23 March is the earliest since 1913, and none of us will see its like again, the next such occurence being in 2160.

Of course, things could be simpler, as the Easter Act, passed by Parliament as long ago as 1928, tried to ensure. This said that Easter should fall on the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. However, since this also required the agreement of the churches, it has never come into force. Time, maybe, for another Council of Nicea.

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