Why is Easter so early this year?

Most of our Western festivals are simple to predict. They either occur on the same date each year or at a fixed position such as “the first Sunday”. Easter on the other hand is what is called a moveable feast. As such the date changes every year and Easter Sunday can fall on any date from 22 March to 25 April.
Why? The reason for this variation in the date of Easter is its origins in pagan festivals. The date is actually based on the lunar calendar rather than our more well-known solar one. The official definition of Western Easter is that it takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox.
So this year it is today: 23 March. But next year it will 12 April.
Who decided this system? It’s complicated but it was probably the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 – see explanation here. There have been some attempts to change the date of Easter away from the old pagan-inspired lunar calendar, but these have met with little support.
In 1928 the British parliament even got around to passing an Easter Act, which declared that the holiday should come on the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. It went on to say that the new rule would not come into force against the opinion of “any church or other Christian body”, which is why, 80 years later, Easter has fallen on a cold, snowy weekend in late March. It will not be so early again until 2160.


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