Have you ever wondered why Easter is not on the same date every year like Christmas? It is because Easter falls on the first Sunday after a full moon following the Spring Equinox which happens on March 20, 2008. The full moon is actually, today, Good Friday, March 21. No one alive will ever see Easter come this early again because it will not happen for another 220 years in 2228.
Easter Sunday can fall on any date from March 22 to April 25.
The year-to-year sequence is so complicated that it takes 5.7 million years to repeat, according to the Regent University page dedicated to explaining the changing date of Easter.
An Equinox happens twice a year - an equinox is that moment in time (not a whole day) when the center of the sun can be observed to be directly above the Earth's equator, occurring either the 20 or 21 in March and the 22 or 23 of September each year. On these two days per year, the amount of daylight and night are approximately identical - equal.
The celebration of the Spring Equinox was practiced by many world religions from Native Americans, to Mayans, to Pagans. It was/is for many religions, a celebration of fertility and rejuvenation.
Easter, as celebrated by Christians, has more to do with the Hebrew observance of the Passover that coincided with the time of Christ's death and resurrection. Quoting from the History Channel Web site on Easter: "According to the New Testament, Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover and shortly afterward rose from the dead. In consequence, the Easter festival commemorated Christ's resurrection. In time, a serious difference over the date of the Easter festival arose among Christians. Those of Jewish origin celebrated the resurrection immediately following the Passover festival, which according to their Babylonian lunar calendar, fell on the evening of the full moon (the 14th day in the month of Nisan, the first month of the year); by their reckoning, Easter, from year to year, fell on different days of the week. Christians of Gentile origin, however, wished to commemorate the resurrection on the first day of the week, Sunday; by their method, Easter occurred on the same day of the week, but from year to year it fell on different dates. An important historical result of the difference in reckoning the date of Easter was that the Christian churches in the East, which were closer to the birthplace of the new religion and in which old traditions were strong, observed Easter according to the date of the Passover festival. The churches of the West, descendants of Greco-Roman civilization, celebrated Easter on a Sunday."
Depending on what calendar a person goes by - the Gregorian Calendar, the Julian Calendar or the Christian Liturgical Calendar - Easter may not even be observed on the same date in the same year by various groups of believers.
Some people are questioning if this year's early Easter celebration marks a significant event that will take place this year. Is there something special taking place this year that is being marked by the "signs in the heavens"?
Is the calendar date of Easter actually the most important thing about this high holy day? Absolutely not. The message of Easter is that Christ gave himself as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
He willingly went to the cross and was crucified, died, was buried and rose again on the third day. His life, death and resurrection are the true hope and meaning of Easter.
He broke the chains of death and became victorious over the grave to return to Earth and be seen of many followers over a period of 40 days as a testimony that eternal life is a reality.
How is it that this important day, the day that celebrates Christ's resurrection from the dead, is so entwined with eggs and bunnies?
Christian tradition states that when Mary Magdalene visited Emperor Tiberias, she gave him a red egg as a symbol of the Resurrection or new life. Often the lines between customs that were purely Christian are blurred by the similarities and practices of others.
Pagans also gave eggs on Easter or even colored eggs as part of their rituals that marked the beginning of spring at the time of the equinox. Rabbits (bunnies) represented fertility.
It seems that the early church, much like the modern church, in the ambition of being "tolerant" of pagans and other belief systems, embraced many popular practices of the time. Agreeing on a system that allows the celebration of the resurrection of Christ to fall on different days in different years was also an attempt by the church to satisfy many believers who had varying religious backgrounds, but who had all accepted Christ as a risen savior.