How and when it is celebrated.
|Lent (in Latin: Quadragesima): This was a period of spiritual preparation for Easter which
typically involves fasting, penance and prayer. It was originally established by various
Christian groups as an interval ranging from a few days to several weeks. It was
eventually fixed in the 8th century CE at 40 days. (The number 40 is one of many magical
numbers with religious significance in the Bible. 40 days
recalls the interval that Jesus, Moses and Elias spent in the desert. Other
magical numbers were 3, 7, 12, and 70). Among Roman
Catholics, Lent lasts for 38 days spread across six and a half weeks before Easter; it starts on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Thursday, and does not include Sundays. Other Western traditions observe Lent for 40 days, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday and also do not include Sundays. Among the
Eastern Orthodox churches, it is a full eight weeks.|
|Mardi Gres (a.k.a. Fat Tuesday and Shrove Tuesday): This is held on Tuesday, the day before the first day
The reference to "fat" refers to the custom of eating righ fatty foods on the evening before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.|
|Ash Wednesday: This is held on the first day
of Lent, a Wednesday. |
|Holy Week: the week before Easter Sunday:
|Feast of the Ascension (a.k.a Ascension Day) is a
celebration of Jesus' ascension up into the clouds towards
heaven. The event is described as happening on a Monday, one day after Jesus' ressurection, in Luke 24:51. The same author, writing in Acts 1:9, described
as happening 40 days after his resurrection. The church celebrates the feast
on a Thursday, 40
days after Easter Sunday. Although tradition states that it was first celebrated in 68 CE,
it did not become formally recognized by the church until the late 3rd century.|
|Pentecost (a.k.a. Whit Sunday) is now celebrated 7 weeks/49 days after Easter Sunday. It recalls the visitation of the Holy Spirit to 120 Christians, both apostles and followers. They spoke in tongues (in foreign languages that they had not previously personally known) to the assembled crowd. Three thousand were baptized. The day was originally a Jewish festival which was called "Pentecost," because it was observed 50 days after Passover. (The Greek word for 50'th day is "pentecoste.") This is usually regarded as the date of the birth of the Christian church. The feast was mentioned in a 2nd century book, and was formally recognized in the 3rd century CE.|
It is important to realize that Easter is not celebrated at the anniversary of Jesus' death and reported resurrection. The year of his execution is unknown; estimates range from 29 to 33 CE. And so, the anniversaries of the actual events go unobserved year by year. Even if the year of Jesus' execution was known, there are differences in belief among Christians about whether whether the crucifixion happened on a Wednesday or a Friday. Also the date when Jesus is said to have been resurrected is not clear. The Bible describes some of his female followers as having discovered the empty tomb, but it is unclear whether Jesus' resurrection occurred that morning, or even the day before.
Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after MAR-20, the nominal date of the Spring Equinox. Many sources incorrectly state that the starting date of the calculation is the actual day of the Equinox rather than the nominal date of MAR-20. Other sources use an incorrect reference date of MAR-21.
A little known fact is that the timing of the full moon is based upon the Metonic Cycle, a method of calculating the date of the full moon known to the ancient Greek astronomer Meton, who lived in the 5th century BCE. This calculation is only approximate; it occasionally diverges from the actual astronomical data. 5 For example, in the year 2019, the date of Easter according to a precise astronomical calculation will be MAR-24. However, the Western Church will observe it on APR-21. 6
Easter Sunday in the West can fall on any date from March 22 to April 25th. The year-to-year sequence is so complicated that it takes 5.7 million years to repeat. Eastern Orthodox churches sometimes celebrate Easter on the same day as the rest of Christendom. However if that date does not follow Passover, then the Orthodox churches delay their Easter -- sometimes by over a month. To make matters more complex, most Eastern Orthodox churches use the Julian Calendar which is currently offset by 12 days from the more generally used Gregorian Calendar.
Dates of Easter Sunday are listed below for years 1990 to 2049, both in the Christian West and East. 9 All dates are according to the Gregorian Calendar.
See The Date of Orthodox Easter 1875 to 2124 for corresponding Eastern Orthodox dates, in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars.
Wikipedia provides the following table of dates for Easter Sunday during 2013 and surrounding years:
Although these dates were taken from sources that we believe to be reliable, do not rely on their accuracy. We cannot accept responsibility for any errors.
R.W. Mallen's "Easter Dating Method," shows for methods of calculating the dates of Easter Sunday, both for the Western and Orthodox churches. 1
Graeme Mcrae, a mathematician, calculated the date of Easter according to the Gregorian calendar for dates extending over 30 millennia, from 1583 to 31583 CE!. Some of his findings:
These have been derived primarily from Pagan traditions at Easter time:
|Hot Cross Buns: At the feast of Eostre, the Saxon
fertility Goddess, an ox was sacrificed. The ox's horns became a symbol for the feast.
They were carved into the ritual bread. Thus originated "hot cross buns". The
word "buns" is derived from the Saxon word "boun" which means
"sacred ox." Later, the symbol of a symmetrical cross was used to decorate the
buns; the cross represented the moon, the heavenly body associated with the Goddess, and its
|Easter Rabbit and Eggs:
|Easter Lilies: "The so-called 'Easter lily' has long been
revered by pagans of various lands as a holy symbol associated with the reproductive
organs. It was considered a phallic symbol!" 3|
|Easter Sunrise Service: This custom can be traced back to the ancient Pagan custom of welcoming the sun God at the vernal equinox - when daytime is about to exceed the length of the nighttime. It was a time to "celebrate the return of life and reproduction to animal and plant life as well." 4 Worship of the Sun God at sunrise may be the religious ritual condemned by Jehovah as recorded in:|
Ezekiel 8:16-18: "...behold, at the door of the temple of Jehovah, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of Jehovah, and their faces toward the east; and they were worshipping the sun toward the east. Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen (this), O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have turned again to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in wrath; mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them." (ASV)
|Easter Candles: These are sometimes lit in churches on the eve of Easter Sunday. Some commentators believe that these can be directly linked to the Pagan customs of lighting bonfires at this time of year to welcome the rebirth/resurrection of the sun God.|
Copyright 1999 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-MAR-31
Author: B.A. Robinson
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