Easter Sunday changes dates year-to-year. This year, Easter is on Sunday, April 4, 2021.
The holiday coincides with the vernal equinox, which welcomes spring in the northern hemisphere.
All of the celebrations leading up to Easter also change dates.
Springtime is a welcomed sign after the long days of winter: warmer weather, freshly sprung flowers, and, for those who celebrate, the arrival of Easter Sunday. Unlike Christmas, which falls on the same date each year, Easter and the celebrations leading up to it change dates every year. So you may find yourself wondering how the date of Easter is determined. So we're answering your burning questions about why Easter changes dates.
Of course, to know when Easter is this year, you can figure it out by taking a step back and figuring out Ash Wednesday's date. The main event occurs six and a half weeks after Ash Wednesday, encompassing the 40 days of Lent. But to discover what causes all these dates to fluctuate year after year instead of staying in one place like many other annual holidays including Christmas, Valentine's Day, and St. Patrick's Day, you might want to look to the sky for your answer. We've investigated the reasons behind the ever-changing date, which includes the phases of the moon, the vernal equinox, and the Gregorian calendar. You might not have realized just how much goes into how Easter Sunday is determined each year!
How is the Easter date determined every year?
First off, it's important to know that though the exact date of Easter changes each year, there's a definite period in which the day occurs, and that's March 22 through April 25 (in the Gregorian calendar, not the Julian calendar). Easter always occurs on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon (the first full moon that occurs after the vernal equinox, which signifies the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere), according to The Old Farmer's Almanac.
In 2021, the vernal equinox falls on March 20, 2021, making the first full moon after that date March 28 and the following Sunday—April 4—Easter 2021.
What dates are the Easter holidays in 2021?
Although Easter is the main event, the holiday has several important commemorations leading up to the holy day. This year, things kick off on Wednesday, February 17, when churchgoers head to their local congregations to observe Ash Wednesday. On this day, priests and pastors smear ashes from the previous year's Palm Sunday palms on the attendees' foreheads. They do this while repeating Genesis 3:19, which says, "...for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. The meaning of Lent is to be "encouraged to find our own method of confronting our sinfulness, remembering our mortality, and giving thanks for the gift of salvation we receive through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ," according to the United Methodist Church's website. Many people choose to give up something or give themselves to charity during the 40-day-long celebration.
Lent comes to a close during Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday on March 28. Palm Sunday marks Jesus's arrival in Jerusalem where he was was greeted with palm branches, according to the 40 Acts website. Several days later comes Holy Wednesday, which falls on March 31 this year, and this recognizes Judas Iscariot and his plot to double-cross the savior. The next day—April 1, the end of Lent—is Holy Thursday, the anniversary of the last supper. Good Friday, on April 2, is celebrated next, and that commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The week comes to a close on Easter Sunday, which is April 4, when Jesus rose from the tomb.
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