Thursday, 2 May 2013


“Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.” - Khalil Gibran

In 2013, Greek Orthodox Easter falls on Sunday May 5th. This is much later than both Western Easter (in 2013 31st March, in case you’ve forgotten) and the Jewish feast of Passover (the latter is significant as according to the scriptures, the Passion of Christ occurred in connection with Passover). Colleagues always ask me why is Greek Easter on a different date? Well, not always! Some years it is actually on the same date (e.g. 2014, 2017). How is Greek Easter calculated? Well, it’s complicated!

Calculation of Orthodox Easter is governed by these three main conditions:
1. It must be based on the Julian (as in Julius Caesar) calendar, not the Gregorian (as in Pope Gregory) calendar
2. It must be after the Jewish holiday of Passover
3. It must be on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which for this purpose is fixed as March 21st.

The basic reason for the difference between the two Easters is that the Western Easter uses a different set of calculations based on the current Gregorian calendar created by Pope Gregory instead of the ancient Julian one, first used under the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. Under the Gregorian system, Easter can actually be in March, something that will not happen with the Julian-based method of calculating Easter.

For a full (and fascinating!) explanation on the intricacies of calculating Easter dates, please see Claus Tøndering’s Calendar FAQ excellent site, which one can find other fascinating facts about the various world calendars.

Both Orthodox and Western Christian churches celebrate Easter for the same reason, of course: The resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter Sunday or Resurrection Day is typically the most well-attended Sunday service of the year for all Christian churches. Christians believe, according to Scripture, that Jesus came back to life, or was raised from the dead, three days after his death on the cross. As part of the Easter season, the death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion is commemorated on Good Friday, always the Friday just before Easter. Through his death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus paid the penalty for sin, thus purchasing for all who believe in him, eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Because of Easter’s pagan origins (named after the pagan Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring and fertility, Eostre, or Ôstara), and also because of the commercialisation of Easter, many Christian churches choose to refer to the holiday as Resurrection Day. In Greek, Easter is termed “Pascha”, derived from the Jewish “Pesach” – Passover.

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