A short treatise on why Easter falls on April 4, 1999, or does it? | TahoeDailyTribune.com

A short treatise on why Easter falls on April 4, 1999, or does it?

What day is Easter in the year 2000? How about last year? Or 2016?

It’s always on Sunday and always in spring, but that’s about the best most of us can do when projecting beyond this year’s calendar.

Unlike most holidays that have a set date, or, as in Thanksgiving, a set week of the month, Easter can occur anywhere from March 22 to April 25.

Understanding the system for setting the date requires a good grasp of the moon, the sun and mathematics.

Essentially, Easter is observed in the Western World on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the spring equinox, that is, following March 21 on the Gregorian Calendar, (unless you observe the Eastern Orthodox Easter, which is calculated on the Julian Calendar.) This year, Orthodox Easter lands on March 29 on their calendar, April 11 on the Western calendar.

The Gregorian Calendar, and its way of determining Easter, came into use in the West in Europe in 1582. Until then, Easter of East and West fell on the same date, based on the Julian Calendar and the older formula for determining its date still used by the East.

The Astronomical Society of South Australia’s Web site. offers a “simple” algorithm for calculating when the holiday occurs in a given year.

It requires three steps using a calculator and five tables, given on the Web site.

The Eastern Orthodox algorithm requires four steps and six tables.

The formula is pretty complex. It takes 5.7 million years for the cycle of Easter dates to repeat.

For those interested in such exercises, you can visit the Web site at http://www.assa.org.au/edm.html.

So why not base Easter’s date on the Jewish Passover since Jesus’ Last Supper was actually a Passover meal?

A University of Texas Web site has a 42-page formula, with no pictures, describing how to determine the date of Passover in a given year. The address is almost as long as the formula: http://wwwhost.cc.utexas.edu/ftp/source/applications/editors/emacs-19.34/lisp/cal-hebrew.el.

Eastern and Western churches have tiptoed into discussion about working out a common, simpler dating formula. If and when that happens Easter in AD 2016 may not be hard to determine.

Until then, get a calendar.

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