Yes, it's not your imagination; Easter is very early this year
Why does the date for Easter change every year? Have you ever wondered why Easter Sunday can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25? In Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon date of the year.
To make things even more complicated, the “Paschal Full Moon” may or may not actually coincide with an actual full moon as we know it.
There are in fact as many misunderstandings about the calculations as there are reasons for confusion about Easter dates. What follows is an attempt to clear up at least some of the confusion.
In actuality, the date of the Paschal Full Moon is determined from historical tables, and has no correspondence to lunar events. In the year 325 AD astronomers approximated the dates of all the full moons in the year for the Western Christian churches. These were called the Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates, and they have been used ever since 326 AD to determine the date of Easter. So, the Paschal Full Moon is always the first Ecclesiastical Full Moon date after March 20 (which happened to be the vernal equinox date in 325 AD).
The Paschal Full Moon can vary as much as two days from the date of the actual full moon, with dates ranging from March 21 to April 18. As a result, Easter dates can range from March 22 through April 25 in Western Christianity.
This year Easter falls on March 23, only one day later than the earliest it can ever be in Western churches.
The last time Easter fell on March 23 was the year 1913, 95 years ago. Therefore, only a few of us were actually alive then to celebrate Easter.
The next time Easter will fall on March 23 is 2160, 152 years from now. It's doubtful any of us will still be around to celebrate Easter again on March 23.
Even more remarkable, no one alive today has ever, or ever will celebrate Easter earlier than March 23. The last time Easter fell on March 22 was in 1818, and the next time will be in 2285!
Please be sure to make your Easter celebrations memorable this year! You'll have to wait nearly 13 months before you can celebrate Easter 2009, as next year it will be on April 12.
NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to email@example.com or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, 790-0123, ext. 225.