The date of Easter Sunday varies annually, and in 2024, it is observed on Sunday, March 31. The determination of Easter’s date is based on a specific formula: it falls on the Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, marking the arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
This unique method of calculation ensures that Easter aligns with astronomical events, adding an element of celestial significance to its timing. Consequently, all related celebrations and holy days preceding Easter undergo annual adjustments, contributing to the dynamic and ever-changing nature of this religious observance.
How is the Easter date determined every year?
Easter, a moveable feast, undergoes an annual change in its date, determined through a calculation known as computus1. The process is intricate and follows a set of rules:
- Easter lands on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon.
- The Paschal full moon is the first full moon on or after March 21.
- If the full moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter is celebrated on the following Sunday.
It’s noteworthy that the Paschal full moon’s date isn’t established through direct astronomical observations. Instead, it relies on mathematical approximations within a 19-year cycle known as the Metonic cycle. The Church uses a fixed March 21 for the March equinox, irrespective of the actual astronomical date.
Consequently, Easter can fall on any date between March 22 and April 25. This systematic approach ensures consistency in the date of Easter across diverse time zones and regions.
When is Easter 2024 celebrated?
- Ash Wednesday (February 14, 2024): This day marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and reflection. On Ash Wednesday, churchgoers receive ashes on their foreheads as a symbol of mortality, with the words from Genesis 3:19, “…for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Interestingly, in 2024, Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day.
- Lent (February 14 – March 30, 2024): Lent is a time when Christians are encouraged to confront their sinfulness, remember their mortality, and give thanks for the gift of salvation received through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many people choose to give up something or commit to charity during this period.
- Palm Sunday (March 24, 2024): This day marks the beginning of Holy Week and commemorates Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, where he was greeted with palm branches.
- Holy Wednesday (March 27, 2024): Also known as Spy Wednesday, this day recognizes Judas Iscariot’s plot to betray Jesus.
- Maundy Thursday (March 28, 2024): This day commemorates the Last Supper, which was Jesus’ final meal with his disciples.
- Good Friday (March 29, 2024): Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary.
- Easter Sunday (March 31, 2024): Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, marking the end of Lent. This is the main event in the Christian calendar.
Each of these days has its own significance and traditions, and they all lead up to the celebration of Easter Sunday
Is Easter Always the Third Sunday in April?
Easter does not always fall on the third Sunday in April. The date of Easter is determined by a calculation known as computus, which sets Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after March 21st. As a result, Easter can fall on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25. So, while it can occasionally be the third Sunday in April, it’s not always the case. The misconception might arise from the fact that some holidays, like Thanksgiving in the United States, do have a fixed weekday within the month (the fourth Thursday in November for Thanksgiving). But this is not the case for Easter.
When is Orthodox Easter 2024?
Orthodox Easter in 2024 will be celebrated on Sunday, May 5th. The date of Orthodox Easter is determined using the Julian calendar, which often results in it being celebrated later than Easter according to the Gregorian calendar used by Western Christianity