when East doesn’t meet West: two Easter dates??

1Resurrection IconAs my non-Orthodox friends celebrate Easter today, some people may wonder: Why do Orthodox Christians celebrate on a different date? The answer can be very long and complex, but I will give a short answer and just provide some links at the end so you can do your own research, if you so desire.

Short answer: We’re on the old Julian calendar, and pretty much the whole rest of the world is on the Gregorian calendar. The date of Pascha/Easter depends on the date of the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. But the date of the vernal equinox is different depending on which calendar you use (March 21 in the West, April 2 for us).

Okay, so this year the vernal equinox was Wednesday, March 20, according the Gregorian calendar. There was a full moon March 27, and so Westerners are celebrating Easter today, the following Sunday, March 31. BUT…using the Julian calendar, the vernal equinox cannot occur until after April 2. Our Jewish friends will be celebrating Passover from March 25 to April 2 this year, after which we’ll see the next full moon April 25. So Orthodox Christians will celebrate Pascha, the New Passover, the following Sunday, May 5.

Phew. I hope I explained that correctly.

On another related note, people have mentioned to me before, they thought there was some sort of pattern in the number of weeks between Western Easter and Orthodox. I’m not big on numbers, but I do love lists. So, I looked back 100 years and made this list to show the dates of Orthodox Pascha, Western Easter and the number of weeks between the two (if any).

Date of Observance of Pascha and Easter
1913: Apr 27, Mar 23 – 5 weeks
1914: Apr 19, Apr 12 – 1 week
1915: Apr 4, Apr 4 – same
1916: Apr 23, Apr 23 – same
1917: Apr 15, Apr 8 – 1 week
1918: May 5, Mar 31 – 5 weeks
1919: Apr 20, Apr 20 – same
1920: Apr 11, Apr 4 – 1 week
1921: May 1, Mar 27 – 5 weeks
1922: Apr 16, Apr 16 – same
1923: Apr 8, Apr 1 – 1 week
1924: Apr 27, Apr 20 – 1 week
1925: Apr 19, Apr 12 – 1 week
1926: May 2, Apr 4 – 4 weeks
1927: Apr 24, Apr 17 – 1 week
1928: Apr 15, Apr 8 – 1 week
1929: May 5, Mar 31 – 5 weeks
1930: Apr 20, Apr 20 – same
1931: Apr 12, Apr 5 – 1 week
1932: May 1, Mar 27 – 5 weeks
1933: Apr 16, Apr 16 – same
1934: Apr 8, Apr 1 – 1 week
1935: Apr 28, Apr 21 – 1 week
1936: Apr 12, Apr 12 – same
1937: May 2, Mar 28 – 5 weeks
1938: Apr 24, Apr 17 – 1 week
1939: Apr 9, Apr 9 – same
1940: Apr 28, Mar 24 – 5 weeks
1941: Apr 20, Apr 13 – 1 week
1942: Apr 5, Apr 5 – same
1943: Apr 25, Apr 25 – same
1944: Apr 16, Apr 9 – 1 week
1945: May 6, Apr 1 – 5 weeks
1946: Apr 21, Apr 21 – same
1947: Apr 13, Apr 6 – 1 week
1948: May 2, Mar 28 – 5 weeks
1949: Apr 24, Apr 17 – 1 week
1950: Apr 9, Apr 9 – same
1951: Apr 29, Mar 25 – 5 weeks
1952: Apr 20, Apr 13 – 1 week
1953: Apr 5, Apr 5 – same
1954: Apr 25, Apr 18 – 1 week
1955: Apr 17, Apr 10 – 1 week
1956: May 6, Apr 1 – 5 weeks
1957: Apr 21, Apr 21 – same
1958: Apr 13, Apr 6 – 1 week
1959: May 3, Mar 29 – 5 weeks
1960: Apr 17, Apr 17 – same
1961: Apr 9, Apr 2 – 1 week
1962: Apr 29, Apr 22 – 1 week
1963: Apr 14, Apr 14 – 1 week
1964: May 3, Mar 29 – 5 weeks
1965: Apr 25, Apr 18 – 1 week
1966: Apr 10, Apr 10 – 1 week
1967: Apr 30, Mar 26 – 5 weeks
1968: Apr 21, Apr 14 – 1 week
1969: Apr 13, Apr 6 – 1 week
1970: Apr 26, Mar 29 – 5 weeks
1971: Apr 18, Apr 11 – 1 week
1972: Apr 9, Apr 2 – 1 week
1973: Apr 29, Apr 22 – 1 week
1974: Apr 14, Apr 14 – same
1975: May 4, Mar 30 – 5 weeks
1976: Apr 25, Apr 18 – 1 week
1977: Apr 10, Apr 10 – same
1978: Apr 30, Mar 26 – 5 weeks
1979: Apr 22, Apr 15 – 1 week
1980: Apr 6, Apr 6 – same
1981: Apr 26, Apr 19 – 1 week
1982: Apr 18, Apr 11 – 1 week
1983: May 8, Apr 3 – 5 weeks
1984: Apr 22, Apr 22 – same
1985: Apr 14, Apr 7 – 1 week
1986: May 4, Mar 30 – 5 weeks
1987: Apr 19, Apr 19 – same
1988: Apr 10, Apr 3 – 1 week
1989: Apr 30, Mar 26 – 5 weeks
1990: Apr 15, April 15 – Same
1991: Apr 7, March 31 – 1 week
1992: Apr 26, April 19 – 1 week
1993: Apr 18, April 11 – 1 week
1994: May 1, April 3 – 4 weeks
1995: Apr 23, April 16 – 1 week
1996: Apr 14, April 7 – 1 week
1997: Apr 27, March 30 – 4 weeks
1998: Apr 19, April 12 – 1 week
1999: Apr 11, April 4 – 1 week
2000: Apr 30, April 23 – 1 week
2001: Apr 15, April 15 – same
2002: May 5, March 31 – 5 weeks
2003: Apr 27, April 20 – 1 week
2004: Apr 11, April 11 – same
2005: May 1, March 27 – 5 weeks
2006: Apr 23, April 16 – 1 week
2007: Apr 8, April 8 – same
2008: Apr 27, March 23 – 5 weeks
2009: Apr 19, April 12 – 1 week
2010: Apr 4, April 4 – same
2011: Apr 24, April 24 – same
2012: Apr 15, April 8 – 1 week
2013: May 5, March 31 – 5 weeks

And into the future:
2014: Apr 20 April 20 – same
2015: Apr 12 April 5 – 1 week
2016: May 1, Mar 27 – 5 weeks
2017: Apr 16, Apr 16 – same
2018: Apr 8, Apr 1 – 1 week

Of note, after celebrating together for the fifth time in 10 years in 2017, our Easters will not coincide again for another 17 years!

For further research, check out:
GM Arts You can see the date of Easter going out to 2049. If you scroll down under the first few charts, you’ll find links to charts showing the dates of Western or Orthodox Easter going all the way back to 1583.

World Council of Churches More detailed info about the difference in calendars.

Farmers Almanac for the 2013 full moon calendar.

About.com‘s Catholic explanation of the difference in dates.

And I simply googled to see when Passover will be observed this year.

I know a lot of people think we should all be on one calendar together, and I agree. But I think it should be the old calendar, all year round, for religious holidays. It may not be as accurate, but I like the idea of being on a different time when we leave the world and enter the Church. Of course, I don’t get to make the rules.

Anyway, no matter when you celebrate it…Christ is Risen!!

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