Important Easter dates
Easter is a moveable feast literally. The dates of Easter change every year. This is because Easter traditionally the greatest celebration on the Christian calendar marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated on a date based on moon cycles. Easter changes dates every year as it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon in the northern hemisphere's Spring time. This is also known as the vernal equinox.
Easter dates for 2016
- Shrove Tuesday falls on Tuesday, 9 February in 2016
- Ash Wednesday falls on Wednesday, 10 February in 2016
- Palm Sunday falls on Sunday, 20 March in 2016
- Good Friday falls on Friday, 25 March in 2016
- Easter Saturday falls on Saturday, 26 March in 2016
- Easter Sunday falls on Sunday, 27 March in 2016
- Easter Monday falls on Monday, 28 March in 2016
For each year after these, you can look up the date of the first full moon after March 21st and then look for the first Sunday after that date to determine Easter Sunday.
Why the Easter calendar changes
Easter dates it varies between the Western world, which uses the Gregorian calendar and places like Greece, which use the Julian calendar for Orthodox feast days.
According to Christian religions, Easter is the day that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death on the cross. Easter falls at the end of 40 days of Lent and is always the Sunday after Good Friday, which commemorates the death of Christ.
The Council of Nicaea in AD 325 set the official date of Easter as the first Sunday after the paschal full moon. This date should coincide with the same date, in history, when Jesus was resurrected. However, since the vernal equinox can actually fall on different dates depending upon your time zone, the church set the official date of the equinox as March 21st, regardless of the year. The next full moon after the equinox is the paschal full moon. Easter falls the first Sunday after that full moon.
Since the first full moon after the equinox changes each year, the date of Easter changes as a result. This is why the date of Easter is different each year.
Shrove Tuesday (sometimes known as Pancake Day) is the day before Ash Wednesday, and is the last day before lent. As it is the last day before the fast, it's seen as a day of feasting. Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday as families would make them up from ingredients that would go to waste over Lent.
Easter, Ash Wednesday and Lent
Lent is the 40 days prior to Easter and is supposed to be a period of fasting, reflection and preparation for Easter. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and is named after the Christian practice of putting ashes on the foreheads of Christmas to symbolize the death of Jesus Christ.
Palm Sunday and Holy Week
Traditional Christians celebrate the beginning of Easter with Palm Sunday, the week prior to Easter Sunday. The week preceding Easter is often known as Holy Week.
Good Friday and Easter Sunday
This is the day Jesus Christ was crucified and died on the cross it celebrates the death of Jesus but the day of celebration is Easter Sunday, when Christ rose from the dead. That is why Easter Sunday is the traditional day to give Easter eggs, as a symbol of new life.