image of moveable feasts

The calendar would be oh so simple if it weren’t for Easter. As everyone inside or outside the church is aware, Easter jumps about apparently randomly in March and April, dragging an important part of the church year around with it – Lent with its feasting (Pancake Day, Mardi Gras etc.) and fasting, Ascension, Pentecost and others. “When is Easter this year?” must be one of the most commonly asked questions when any group of Christians sit down to plan anything.

So, when is Easter this year? 

Lent and Easter Dates 2017 2018 2019 2020
Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras, Pancake Day) 28 Feb  13 Feb  05 Mar  25 Feb
Ash Wednesday (Lent starts) 01 Mar 14 Feb 06 Mar  26 Feb
Palm Sunday 09 Apr 25 Mar 14 Apr  05 Apr
Good Friday 14 Apr 30 Mar 19 Apr  10 Apr
Easter Sunday 16 Apr 01 Apr 21 Apr  12 Apr
Ascension Day (Thursday) 25 May 10 May 30 May  21 May
Pentecost Sunday (Whitsun) 04 Jun 20 May 09 Jun  31 May
Trinity Sunday 11 Jun 27 May 16 Jun  07 Jun

Actually of course it isn’t in the slightest bit random. Because the crucifixion took place at Passover, the early church naturally fixed the new Easter celebrations to the Jewish Passover week, and the date of that was based on observations of the moon. Easter was set as the Sunday after the full moon after the spring equinox. To eliminate problems of differences of observation the Church simplified this by doing away with actually observing the moon and instead listed standardised full moon dates in tables, calling them Ecclesiastical Full Moons, and standardised the date of the equinox, which allowed everyone to celebrate Easter on the same date. Over the centuries this process has been corrected and refined as more precise astronomical data became available. At its core, however is this simple rule:-

Easter is the Sunday following the first Full Moon on or after 21 March.

The outcome of this is that the earliest Easter Sunday can fall is 22 March and the latest is 25 April.

You can find a full explanation of the calculations on Wikipedia.

Don’t forget that we have a few Easter-period drama scripts available for download on this site for use in church services – God in Your Cupboard for use in Lent, two contrasting Easter Morning scripts Sunday 4am and Sunday 5am, and the hilarious-but-edgy script about Easter, faith and chocolate, A Chocolate Tomb.

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