Home > Calendar > Holidays > Holiday News > Easter 2008 is the Earliest in Nearly a Century

Easter 2008 is the Earliest in Nearly a Century

Published 14-Mar-2008

For the first time in nearly 100 years Easter is coming at its earliest on Sunday, March 23, 2008. The last time Easter Sunday fell on March 23 was in 1913. However, Easter can occur earlier than March 23. The earliest Easter ever recorded in the Gregorian calendar from 1753 onwards was on March 22, both in 1761 and 1818.

The next time Easter occurs on March 23 will not be until 2160, and a March 22 Easter will not happen until the year 2285. The Easter date is set aroun d the time of the vernal, or spring, equinox, when the length of day and night is nearly equal in every part of the world. Easter Sunday celebrates the re surrection of Jesus, according to Christian belief.

Setting the Easter Date

Twice a year, around March 21 and September 23, the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night are nearly equal everywhere in t he world. These two days are known as the vernal (or spring) equinox and the autumnal equinox.

The vernal equinox also coincides with Easter and the holidays that are related to it. They are moveable feasts that do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars. The dates of many Christian holidays depend on the Easter date. Some of these holidays include Palm Sunday, Holy or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Ascension Day and Pentecost (also called Whitsunday).

In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was celebrated on the fir st full moon following the vernal equinox. Early sources showed that this soon led to Christians around the world celebrating Easter on different dates. A t the end of the second century, some churches celebrated Easter on the day of the Passover, while others celebrated it on the following Sunday.

In 325CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equ inox. From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the vernal equinox. Easter is delayed one week if the full moon is on Sunday, which decreases the chances of it falling on the same day as the Jewish Passover. The council’s ruling is contrary t o the Quartodecimans, a group of Christians who celebrated Easter on the day of the full moon, 14 days into the month.

Comparative calendars

Although the Council of Nicaea established the Easter date for churches around the world, not all Christian churches observe Easter according the Grego rian calendar. Some churches still observe Easter under the Julian calendar.

The Gregorian calendar was created because the Julian calendar was slightly too long. With the Julian calendar, the equinox date moved towards the earl ier dates of March and further away from the Easter. Therefore, the introduction of the Gregorian calendar allowed for a realignment with the equinox.

According to the Gregorian calendar, Easter falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 from 1753 to 2400. In the Julian calendar, used by some eas tern or Orthodox churches, Easter also falls on a Sunday from March 22 to April 25, which in the Gregorian calendar are from April 3 to May 10 from 1753 t o 2400.

In 2008 Easter Sunday falls on March 23 in the Gregorian calendar and on April 27 in the Julian calendar, when converted to the Gregorian date. In 2007 Easter fell on the same date (April 8) in both calendars when the Julian date was converted to the Gregorian date. This happens in some years, such as 20 04, 2010 and 2011.

Table 1, below, shows the earliest Easter dates in both the Gregorian and Julian Calendars from 1753 up until the year 2400. The Julian calendar dates are converted to the dates shown in the Gregorian calendar.

Table 1. Earliest Easter Dates from 1753 to 2400.

Earliest Easter Dates
in the Gregorian Calendar
Earliest Easter Dates in the Julian Calendar
(Dates Converted to Gregorian Calendar Dates)
March 22, 1761April 3, 1763
March 22, 1818April 4, 1790
March 22, 2285April 4, 1847
March 22, 2353April 4, 1858
March 23, 1788April 4, 1915
March 23, 1845April 4, 2010
March 23, 1856April 5, 1801
March 23, 1913April 5, 1885
March 23, 2008April 5, 1896
March 23, 2160April 5, 1942
March 23, 2228April 5, 1953
March 23, 2380April 5, 2037
 April 5, 2048
 April 5, 2105

Table 2, below, shows the latest Easter dates in both the Gregorian and Julian Calendars from the years 1753 to 2400. The Julian calendar dates are con verted to the dates shown in the Gregorian calendar.

Table 2. Latest Easter Dates from 1753 to 2400

Latest Easter Dates
in the Gregorian Calendar
Latest Easter Dates in the Julian Calendar
(Dates Converted to Gregorian Calendar Dates)
April 23, 1848May 7, 2051
April 23, 1905May 7, 2271
April 23, 1916May 7, 2344
April 23, 2000May 8, 1983
April 23, 2079May 8, 2078
April 23, 2152May 8, 2135
April 23, 2220May 8, 2146
April 24, 1791May 8, 2203
April 24, 1859May 8, 2287
April 24, 2011May 8, 2298
April 24, 2095May 8, 2355
April 24, 2163May 8, 2366
April 24, 2231May 9, 2173
April 24, 2383May 9, 2230
April 25, 1886May 9, 2241
April 25, 1943May 9, 2382
April 25, 2038May 9, 2393
 May 10, 2268
 May 10, 2325
 May 10, 2336

Proposed Easter Date Reforms

There have been a number of suggested reforms for the Easter date. For example, in 1997 the World Council of Churches proposed a reform of the Easter c alculation to replace an equation-based method of calculating Easter with direct astronomical observation. This would have solved the Easter date differen ce between churches that observe the Gregorian calendar and those that observe the Julian calendar. The reform was proposed to be implemented in 2001, but it is not yet adopted.

Another example of a proposed reform occurred in the United Kingdom, where the Easter Act 1928 was established to allow the Easter date to be fixed as the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. However, this law was not implemented, although it remains on the UK Statute Law Database.

You might also like