Your 3 Cents this week centers on Easter, or actually the fact that we didn’t have Easter when it should have been. It came in the form of a question from Russell who wrote in:

“I’m a little perplexed regarding when Easter is this year. I’ve had it in my head for a while that Easter is on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the Vernal equinox. So, the equinox was on Wednesday (3/20) at 5:58 ET. I believe the full moon occurred at 9:43 ET that same day. So, why wasn’t Sunday, March 24, Easter, instead of April 21?  Thanks much.

Russell, I have to admit, I never even thought about it until your message.  But you’re right! 

We are always taught that the spring equinox happens, which was March 20th at 5:58pm, then a full moon, which happened a few hours later at 9:58pm, then Easter SHOULD have happened the Sunday after, or last Sunday… but it didn’t.

The short answer is there are 2 vernal equinoxes.  The astronomical one which happened last Wednesday, March 20th, at 5:58pm eastern.  And an “ecclesiastical" one which happened on March 21st, and is on March 21st every year.

Here’s the explanation. Easter is a Christian holiday. When it would be observed was set in 325 A.D. by a great council of churches known as the First Council of Nicea (which was in Turkey). The council established that Easter would be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the ecclesiastical spring equinox, or March 21st.

So, knowing that, when we do the math it makes a bit more sense. 

The ecclesiastical first day of spring was March 21st. The first full moon after is coming up on Friday, April 19th, and Easter is the Sunday after, April 21st.

Because even the astronomical spring equinox is always around March 21st, it usually doesn’t make much of a difference. As a matter of fact, this is a fairly rare occurrence.  In the 1000 years between 1583 and 2583, there are only 78 years in which the date of "astronomical Easter" differs from that of the traditional, "ecclesiastical Easter." 

That’s my 3 Cents. If you have a rant or a rave, I want to know about it. Give me a call at 423-643-9722 and give me your 3 Cents.