The reason why Greek Easter does not occur on the same day Christian Easter does

Easter is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. “First Sunday” is a margin of 7 days; “full moon” is a margin of 29 days; “vernal equinox” is a margin of 3 days. Thus Easter could be within a 39 day span, coming as early as March 22nd or as late as April 25th.

The Greek Orthodox Church does not always celebrate Easter on the same day as the Catholic and Protestant countries. The reason is that the Orthodox Church uses the Gregorian calender when calculating Easter and the Catholic Church the Julian Calender.

When the Greek Orthodox Church in 1923 decided to change to the Gregorian calendar (or rather: a Revised Julian Calendar), they chose to use the astronomical full moon as the basis for calculating Easter, rather than the “official” full moon. And they chose the meridian of Jerusalem to serve as definition of when a Sunday starts.

The one thing that has always amazed me is how Easter is based upon a floating date derived from a lunar cycle. This all seems a bit too pagan for me. One would think given its importance to Christians and Orthodox alike, it would be a date absolute.

The photo is showing a couple Greek Easter traditions; eating Easter bread called tsoureki and breaking red dyed hard boiled Easter eggs.

Thanks for reading and hopefully your Easter is filled with bliss and joy. για την υγεία σας “to your health” cvc

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Comments

  1. You write:

    “When the Greek Orthodox Church in 1923 decided to change to the Gregorian calendar (or rather: a Revised Julian Calendar), they chose to use the astronomical full moon as the basis for calculating Easter, rather than the “official” full moon. And they chose the meridian of Jerusalem to serve as definition of when a Sunday starts.”

    That is true. At the meeting in 1923 the bishops agreed to do this. However, this part of their 1923 agreement was never permanently implemented anywhere. With a few exceptions, such as Finland, all the Easter churches (including the Greek church) still use the old Julian computus to determine Easter. The exceptions use the Gregorian computus. No church, East or West, uses the true sun, true moon, and meridian of Jerusalem to compute Easter.

    The false contrary proposition, that the lunar part of the 1923 agreement was actually implemented and continues in use, has, however, taken on a life of its own even though it can be contradicted by easily-verifiable facts.

    For example, in 2002, the equinox was on March 20 at 19:16 Universal Time. The full moon was on March 28 at 18:25 universal time. Jerusalem time would be 2 hours 21 minutes later than these: equinox at March 20 21:37 and full moon on March 28 at 20:46. (March 28 was also 15 Nisan, the first day of Unleavened Bread, in the Rabbinic calendar, and a Thursday). The following Sunday was March 31st. This was Easter according to the true sun, true moon, and meridian of Jerusalem. However, the Orthodox equinox was on April 3rd that year as every year, not March 20th, so Orthodox Easter was in the following lunar month. The next astronomical full moon after March 28th was on April 27th at 3:00 Universal time (5:21 Jerusalem time). This was a Saturday, so the Sunday following this full moon was April 28th. However, the Orthodox moon was not full until May 1st, so Orthodox Easter was on May 5th. Clearly the Orthodox churches use neither the true equinox nor the true moon.

    Holy scripture commands the use of a lunar calendar by the Israelites (Num 29.11) so I see nothing inherently “pagan” about using a lunar calendar. Furthermore the Julian calendar, of which the Gregorian is a modification, was devised by Julius Caesar, a pagan priest. If the lunar concept that Christianity inherited from Judaism is “pagan”, then surely the solar calendar, originally devised by a pagan priest and having some months named after pagan gods, cannot be less so.

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