But why is there no fixed date for Easter?
According to Beda, the Venerable, an English religious who lived in the 7th century, Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere (March 20, 2018).
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“Astronomy is at the heart of setting the date for Easter. (The date) depends on two astronomical facts – the spring equinox and the full moon,” said Marek Kukula, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London.
This is a “mobile holiday”, and this is thanks to the complex system that was developed to try to calculate Passover (and Passover) from heaven, accommodating different calendars.
The most frequent date for Easter in Western churches has been April 19, but the event has already fallen until April 25.
The date of Easter varies, among other reasons, in an attempt to harmonize lunar and solar calendars – Photo: Getty Images / BBC
Our calendar does not exactly match astronomical cycles.
“For thousands of years calculations and adjustments have been made in an attempt to match artificial calendars with astronomy. But, precisely because of the lack of a precise combination between them, complex calculations are needed to determine the exact day of the equinox and the full moon. “added Kukula.
Despite the Catholic Church’s famous feud with Galileo in 1633 over differences in physicist astronomy studies, religious people always knew that it was necessary to calculate dates for Easter and holy days – and that it was necessary to resort to the study of the stars.
To this end, the Catholic Church built its first observatory in 1774.
The complicated Easter date determination system is the result of a combination of calendars, cultural practices and Hebrew, Roman and Egyptian traditions.
The Egyptian calendar was based on the Sun, a practice first adopted by the Romans and later incorporated into Christian culture. Judaism partially bases the Hebrew calendar on the Moon, and Islam also uses phases of the Moon.
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The date of Easter varies not only by trying to harmonize lunar and solar calendars, but there are also other complications that end up interfering, such as the fact that different strands of Christianity use different formulas in their calculations.
In 1582 the Gregorian Calendar was created, adopted and promoted by Pope Gregory to make Easter fall earlier and be easier to calculate. This is the calendar we still use today.
Gregory 13 introduced the Gregorian calendar, still used in the Western world – Photo: Getty Images / BBC
According to the Bible, Jesus’ death and resurrection, the events celebrated at Passover, occurred at the time of Passover.
Passover was celebrated on the first full moon after the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere.
But this led Christians to celebrate Easter on different dates. At the end of the 2nd century, some churches celebrated Easter together with Passover, while others set the date on the following Sunday.
In 325, the date of Easter was unified thanks to the Council of Nicaea.
Easter would be on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurred after the spring equinox (or on the same date, if the full moon and the equinox occurred on the same day).
Even so, different traditions and cultures continued to make different calculations for the date.
An example was given in England, in the year 664. In the kingdom of Northumbria, King Oswiu and his wife celebrated Easter on different Sundays. The king observed the Irish tradition, and the queen, the Roman. She came from a part of the kingdom that had been evangelized according to Roman traditions, while King Oswiu’s hometown followed Irish tradition.
As a result, one year the king celebrated Easter on a Sunday, but the queen was still in the period of Lent. To set the date, the king called a synod (assembly of religious) in the city of Whitby.
The most frequent date for Easter in Western churches has been April 19 – Photo: Getty Images / BBC
In defense of the Irish tradition, there was Bishop Colman of Lindisfarne. St. Wilfrid, a Northumbria native trained in Rome, defended Roman tradition.
“At a crucial point in the debate, he mentioned St. Peter, the keeper of the keys to paradise, who received them from Christ himself. And King Oswiu, who presided over the synod, was very impressed,” said Michael Carter, a member of Historical Heritage English.
With that, the decision was made in favor of the Roman tradition.
“The Synod of Whitby ensured that the Church in England adopted the standard Western practice. This meant the unification of the celebration of the most important event on the Christian calendar by the English church, the day of Christ’s resurrection. This persisted in the country (.. .) until the Anglican Reformation, when England broke with Europe’s religious and cultural pattern, “added Carter.
Orthodox traditions within Christianity continued to use the Julian Calendar instead of accepting the calendar reform imposed by Pope Gregory.
Orthodox churches, therefore, continued to celebrate Easter and Christmas on dates other than Western or Roman traditions.
But can that change? Pope Tawadros 2nd of Alexandria, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, hopes that the different strands of Christianity will be able to reach agreement on this important issue.
Shortly after meeting with him, Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury (the pope’s equivalent to the Anglican Church), released surprising news in January 2018: after many centuries of disagreement, new hopes arose that the date of the Easter may be a date that all Christians celebrate together.
The Council of Nicaea settled many disputes in the center of the church, including the date of Easter – Photo: Getty Images / BBC
“During our visit to the Vatican in 2013, Pope Tawadros spoke to Pope Francis in Rome again on the topic,” said Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain.
“There seems to be a willingness among some of the leaders of the Christian Church to at least assess this possibility.”
However, he admits that the road seems to be a long one. “The difficulty is that everyone needs to sacrifice something, as each of us has our own way of calculating Easter and we have calculated it for centuries,” he said.
There is still no timetable and Bishop Angaelos says the “task is monumental”. “We are talking about it with a lot of people, a lot of different cultures, different churches and different religious leaders. It will be a monumental task. But the idea is there.”
And what do astronomers think of a unified Easter? “In a way, astronomy would be out of the equation,” said Marek Kukula.
“It would still be necessary to regulate the calendar – you would still need to have leap years and adjust seconds – but Easter would no longer be a mobile holiday and this would make things like planning school holidays a lot simpler. However, if people are going to want to do that or not, it goes through a religious issue. ”
And, taking into account the whole story behind the date, the debate on the issue may still extend for a long time.
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