Why is Easter so early this year, and how is it determined?

A little known law in 1928 attempted to regulate Easter's fluctuating date, but fell by the wayside as it was not enforced

Siobhan Fenton
Monday 21 March 2016 12:54
Easter is particularly early this year, falling on 27 March
Easter is particularly early this year, falling on 27 March

Easter is fast approaching as Lent draws to a close and the festival takes place this Sunday 27 March. If you’re left with a feeling that time has passed particularly quickly this year, you’re not mistaken. This is because, rather than having a fixed date like Christmas, Easter’s date fluctuates every year. This year, the date is the earliest for almost a decade.

Why does Easter’s date change each year?

As a general rule, it falls on the first Sunday which follows the first full moon after 21 March. The convoluted system is the product of a mix of Hebrew, Roman and Egyptian culture and calendars.

The Egyptians based their calendar on the movement on the Sun, which was adopted by Roman and then Christian culture. However, Judaism used one based on the phases of the moon, which Islam also incorporates.

Easter’s date fluctuates due to an attempt to harmonise these solar and lunar calendars. However, the issue is further complicated as there is no one fixed way to calculate Easter. Rather, more than a dozen different formulas exist.

Why can’t it be the same date every year?

Many people have called for the system to be simplified to reduce confusion. In 1928 an Easter Act was passed which fixed the date as the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April.

However, the law did not catch on and very few people adopted it. It has never been enforced by the Government and has largely been forgotten.

Why is it so early this year?

The most common date for Easter is 19 April, making this year’s date very early.

The earliest it can be is 22 March. However, it has not fallen on this date since 1818 and won’t fall here again until 2285.

The latest day on which Easter can fall is 25 April. This last happened in 1943 and will next come round in 2038.

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