Easter is so late this year and I wanted to know why. Last year, it was on April 4th! 3 weeks earlier than this year. I figured there must be some strange and fascinating way that the date for Easter is decided each year.
The method for determining the date of Easter is very complex and controversial in the Christian church. To say it simply, the Western churches (such as Catholic and Protestant) celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.
But it is actually even more complicated than that. The spring equinox is fixed as March 21 (in 2004, it actually fell on March 20, who knows why?) and the “full moon” is actually the paschal moon, which is based on 84-year “paschal cycles” established in the sixth century, and rarely corresponds to the astronomical full moon. These strange and complex calculations yield an Easter date of anywhere between March 22 and April 25.
The Eastern churches (Greek, Russian, and other forms of Orthodoxy) use the same calculation, but based, instead, on the Julian calendar (on which March 21 is April 3) and a 19-year paschal cycle.
Thus the Orthodox Easter sometimes falls on the same day as the western Easter (it does this year) but the two celebrations can occur as much as five weeks apart. Confused? Me too – I’ve decided to just leave it up to the experts and celebrate Easter on the day the calendar tells me to.
No one really knows the true origins of the word “Easter”, but it may have been derived from Estre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. The German word Ostern has the same derivation. Most other languages seem to follow the Greek term used by the early Christians: pascha, from the Hebrew pesach (Passover).
Easter day is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in Christian religions, which they believe is the promise of eternal life. A common symbol of this resurrection is the egg out of which a bird hatches.
Easter eggs originated in Alsace and the Upper Rhineland in the early 17th century, both of which are in the Holy Roman Empire in Southwestern Germany. The Easter Bunny was introduced to the United States by German Settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 18th century. According to tradition, children would build brightly colored nests out of caps and bonnets in private areas of their home and if the children were good the Osterhase or Hare (Easter Bunny!) would leave colored eggs in their nest.
The first candy Easter eggs and bunnies were made of pastry and sugar in Germany during the early 19th century. The origin of the coloring of Easter eggs is unknown, however. Many people used to dye their eggs the color green in honor of the new growth and red as a symbol on of the blood of Christ. Slavic people decorate their eggs in special patterns of gold and silver. Ukranians make Pysanki (or Easter eggs) in a very artistic way. The can take years to learn how to do well. Melted beeswax is applied to the fresh white egg. It is then dipped in successive baths of dye. After each dip wax is painted over the area where the preceding color is to remain. Eventually a complex pattern of lines and colors emerges into a work of art. Pysanki is truly an art form.
So, there is certainly a lot that goes into this day. I am simply grateful to have a day where I can get together with my family and share good food and good company and create memories.
My own childhood traditions don’t happen anymore, and I can say that I do miss searching for my Easter basket filled with chocolate and candy delights. But I still decorate eggs each year. This year I got an interesting marble-looking kit. I will be decorating them with my mom on Saturday. Then off to my aunt’s on Sunday.
For all of you celebrating this Easter, please stay safe in your travels and cherish your time with loved ones. We hope you have fun coloring your Easter eggs!