It feels like Easter is flinging itself at us. In 2014 Easter took forever to get here and arrived finally on (Gregorian) April 20th. Easter in the West occurs on the first Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon, which is the first full moon (give or take a day or two) occurring on or after the Spring Equinox. In 1818 the Paschal Full Moon happened on the equinox, which was a Saturday, so Easter that year was the earliest date possible, March 22nd. The latest date possible for Easter is April 25th, which last occurred in 1943.
Originally Easter was firmly linked to Passover, as the resurrection occurred on the first Sunday following the first night of the Jewish Passover festival. The start of Passover, which celebrates the Israelite exodus from Egypt, falls on the same day of the Jewish calendar every year — the eve of the 14th of Nissan — but because Jews use a lunar calendar, they must insert a so-called “leap month” every two or three years to keep their holiday cycles in tune with the seasons. This year, there are two months of Adar, the month that precedes Nissan. This year the dates for Easter and Passover are separated by 26 days, almost a full lunar month.
The date of Passover is not fixed to a day of the week, and Christians wanted to celebrate it on Sunday. The Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. determined Easter should be the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, fixed at March 21. That’s in the Roman Catholic Church. When Pope Gregory XIII corrected the Julian calendar in the 16th century to adjust for the discrepancy of calendar time versus calculated astronomical time, those in what is now known as the Orthodox Catholic Church (or Eastern Orthodox Church) refused to adopt the revised calendar until well into the 20th century, and even now, they still celebrate Easter according to the old (Julian) calendar, not the Gregorian calendar. That means their Easter usually falls on a different and later Sunday — May 1 this year, five weeks after the Roman Catholic Easter. In 2014, Easter was celebrated on the same day – Julian April 7th and Gregorian April 20th.
It was long believed that Jesus’ Second Coming would occur on Easter, which accounts for some of the resistance to the Church’s determination to fix the dates. Grandma believed the Second Coming would occur on a Jewish holiday – most likely Passover. She would thoroughly clean her house the day before so that the heathens who came prowling after the rapture would see that “this Christian girl kept a clean house.” This year, if she were still alive, I bet she would have cleaned house this month for Easter and next month for Passover, just to be on the safe side. There are ten major Jewish holidays. I don’t think Grandma knew this – the house was never THAT clean! So clean your house this Saturday and keep it clean by joining us for brunch on Sunday… just in case.