Easter, Passover — More ties than you might think

As residents celebrate Easter and Passover this weekend some might wonder why the two holidays seem to move in sync with each other each year. Despite their vast differences and seeming disconnect, both have ties to the vernal equinox.

Passover

Passover, the eight-day festival, which begins March 31 this year, is a celebration of the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. According to myjewishlearning.com, the Torah stipulates the month in which the exodus from Egypt occurred should mark the start of a new year. The Jewish calendar begins in late September or early October with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. Unlike secular calendars, the Jewish calendar uses 12 lunar months, each about 29 or 30 days long. The new moon marks the beginning of each month. According to chabad.org, the start of Passover falls on the 14th of the Hebrew month Nissan (the seventh month in the Jewish calendar).

Easter

Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to Christian teachings, Jesus died on a cross by crucifixion on a Friday and three days later rose from the dead to save humanity from sin and to promise eternal life in heaven. Since Jesus was Jewish, some say Jesus’ last supper was the first seder. In 325 A.D., the First Council of Nicaea determined Easter should always fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. In Western Christianity, Easter is now always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Pascal Full Moon, which can vary as much as two days from the date of the actual full moon (which ranges from March 21 to April 18).

Orthodox Easter

So why is Eastern Orthodox Easter sometimes different? This year, Orthodox Easter falls on Sunday, April 8 — a week after the Western churches’ Easter. Eastern Orthodox churches follow the Julian Calendar, which is what the First Council of Nicaea used to determine Easter’s date. But since then, Western churches have adopted the Gregorian Calendar. To stay in line with the originally established vernal equinox, Orthodox Easter cannot be celebrated before April 3 (which was March 22 in 325 A.D.). Plus, Eastern Orthodox churches adhere to the tradition that Easter must fall after the Jewish Passover, since the belief is the resurrection of Christ happened after the celebration of Passover.

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