Q: #413. What day is Easter celebrated on?
A: Of course, Christians celebrate Easter to commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible makes it pretty clear that Jesus died on a Friday, and arose on Sunday (Sunday = “the first day of the week”)(See: Mt 28:1, Mk 16:2,9, Lk 24:1, Jn 20:1). (I discuss this further here.) This occurred during the time of the Jewish Passover (celebrated on a Saturday)(Mt 26:17-20)(Mk 14:12-18). Therefore, Easter (or celebrating Christ’s Resurrection) should be the first Sunday after the Jewish Passover each year, right? Well, of course when humans are involved in creating a “holy day” that God did not ordain to be celebrated, chaos and disorder can ensue. Such is the case here…
First, it should be noted that the day we celebrate Easter was apparently determined by the Catholic church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Based on the ruling of this Council, here is the simple (short) answer to the question “What day is Easter celebrated on.” First, you must locate the “vernal equinox” (for the northern hemisphere) which is March 21st (or the first day of Spring). (Equinox = day and night of equal length.) Then, you must look for the date of the first full moon following the 21st (it will be between no more than a month later). The Sunday following that first full moon will be Easter. (However, if the first full moon after the vernal equinox falls on a Sunday, Easter will be delayed one week, and fall on the following Sunday.) Using this formula, Easter must always fall on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 (using the Gregorian calendar). That is the “simple” (short) answer 🙂 .
This is the formula that most of the “Western Church,” as well as Catholicism uses. However, in some places, different methods or calendars are used to calculate when to celebrate Easter. For example, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, they still use the Julian Calendar, named for and introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C., rather than the Gregorian Calendar that most (the U.S.) use today. (I discuss this in the previous question.) Since these calendars do not perfectly align, the date upon which Easter falls differs.
Ultimately, however, the exact date (always on a Sunday) on which Easter (or Christ’s Resurrection) is celebrated is not important (especially since God did not ask us to celebrate it). In fact, God tells us in several places in the Bible that it is acceptable to honor the Lord on any day we choose (Col 2:16-17)(Rom 14:15-16)(Gal 4:9-10).
I should also add that the formula created by the Council of Nicaea to determine the day to celebrate Easter (based on the “new moon”) has nothing to do with the Bible. Apparently, it was a reaction by the Catholic Church to counter Pagan rituals that were being practiced at the time (I explain this more here: Where does the word Easter come from?).