Astronomy fans have been spoiled for choice this year. Three successive supermoons – full moons coinciding with perigee – have already occurred this year. But although April’s Full Moon is not as large, it will still be special, as it falls on Good Friday.
Easter used to be celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first astronomical full moon after the vernal, or Spring Equinox.
But the Western Church eventually decided to establish a more standardised system for determining the date of Easter.
Astronomers were able to approximate the dates of all the full moons in future years for the Western Christian churches, thus establishing a table of Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates.
These dates would determine the Holy Days on the Ecclesiastical Calendar.
Although undergoing slight modifications, the method for determining the Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates was permanently established by the 16th century and has been used ever since to determine the date of Easter.
And according to the Ecclesiastical tables, the Paschal, or Passover Full Moon is the first Ecclesiastical Full Moon date after March 20.
So Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon.
The Paschal Full Moon can vary as much as two days from the date of the actual full moon, with dates ranging from March 21 to April 18.
Consequently, Easter dates can range from March 22 through April 25 in Western Christianity.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, a proposal to change Easter to a fixed holiday rather than a movable one has been widely discussed.
In 1963, the Second Vatican Council agreed, provided that Christian churches could reach a consensus — the main possibility is the second Sunday in April.
However, the Vatican has yet to take any action on this.
Easter Sunday cannot occur in March for each of two successive years, meaning a year with a March Easter is always preceded and followed by a year with an April Easter.
It is possible for 10 consecutive Easter Sundays to fall in April, but since the inception of the Gregorian calendar (in 1582), this circumstance has not yet happened.
During the current millennium (2000 to 2999), the date that Easter falls on most frequently is April 16 (43 times). The date that Easter falls on least frequently is also the earliest possible one, March 22 (five times).
This year’s Easter date of April 21 is one of the more frequently occurring spots (38 times).
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