Photo Credit: Sister72
(Creative Commons)
The Easter holiday is one of the most confusing in the modern Western calendar. Why confusing? Because of the date - it's one of the few moveable feasts we have left. Easter Sunday can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25 inclusive, a fact that can cause difficulties for schools, tourists and others trying to arrange their Easter vacations.

The Date of Easter

So why this bizarre flexibility in the date of Easter?

The reason is that - like so many of our modern festivals - Easter was originally a pagan celebration. It's connected with the ancient germanic fertility goddess Eostre and was initially a spring festival, representing the "rebirth" of nature after the winter. That's why we have eggs, chicks and rabbits! This rebirth symbolism was clearly appropriate for the Christian Easter story as well.

Like many pagan feasts, that of Eostre was tied to the phases of the moon - hence the variable date. Easter today is defined - in the West - as being the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. There have over the years been many attempts to change this to a simpler scheme where Easter falls on a fixed date every year, however these never seem to come to anything.


So for the near future at least we''ll probably still be going round asking "When is Easter this year?". In 2009 the answer will be that Easter Sunday falls on April 12th.