How The Date of Easter is Determined Each Year

In August, I will turn 60 years old. I have gone through the last 59 years and 5 months of my life not specifically knowing how the yearly date of Easter is determined.

I knew there could be wide variance from year to year of Easter day, but I thought it was much like Thanksgiving. It's the fourth Thursday of November, so there must be some sort of similar standard for determining on what day Easter falls.


Here is Your Easter Formula

Easter will be on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the Vernal Equinox (1st day of spring).

Using 2024 as an example, the Vernal Equinox is March 19. The first full moon after March 19 falls on Monday, March 25. The following Sunday is March 31, hence that is Easter day for 2024.


When the Vernal Equinox is NOT the Vernal Equinox


Hold up...what?

In the year 325, bishops convened the First Council of Nicaea. Among the many topics covered was the determination of when the feast day of Easter would be observed. They put together the formula involving the full moon, Vernal Equinox, and the first Sunday.

However, they set the Vernal Equinox to always fall on March 21. Plus, "a full Moon calendar was created that did not take into account all the factors of lunar motion that we know about today."

Mykhailo Shcherbyna
Mykhailo Shcherbyna

So, the determination of Easter day from year to year is based on a calendar that was put into play nearly 1700 years ago. This can create confusion in certain years.

The Confusion of 2019

In 2019, the first day of spring occurred on March 20, and wouldn't you know it, the full moon reached its peak that same evening. That means the following Sunday (March 24) should be the date for Easter 2019.

Nope...we use the 'ecclesiastical dates' for determining the full moon and March equinox, so we had to wait for the next full moon on April 19, which put Easter 2019 on April 21.


Some Easter Fun Facts

  • The earliest Easter can fall is March 22. The last time that happened was in the year 1818. The next time it will occur is 2285.
  • The latest Easter can occur is April 25. That last occurred in 1943 but will happen again in 2038.
  • If you like math, an algorithm was developed about 80 years ago that will compute when Easter falls from year to year.  If you are into numbers and variables, knock yourself out and click here.
  • Eastern Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar for their calculations. Easter, for them, falls between the dates of April 4 and May 8.

Regardless of when Easter falls from year to year, the significance of the day is what remains important. Jesus was resurrected from the dead and redeemed us from sin.

May you have a happy and blessed Easter.

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