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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

This Easter is earliest anyone living today will ever know

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Lawson Mills, 11-month-old son of Josh and Brittney Mills of Sikeston, will celebrate his second Easter on Sunday. Lawson was born on Easter last year, which was April 8.
(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Not since 1913 has Easter been celebrated this early -- and it won't be this early again for 220 more years. The next time Easter will be March 23 again will in 2228, according to the Christian History Institute. Only those 95 and older saw an Easter this early, and it was on March 23, 1913. The next time Easter will be a day earlier -- March 22 -- will be in the year 2285, or 277 years from now. The last time it was March 22 was in 1818. Dr. Kerry Wynn, who is a member of the Department of Political Science, Philosophy and Religion faculty at Southeast Missouri State University, said calculating the annual date of Easter is interesting -- and a bit confusing. "The date of Easter is related to Passover, which is April 20 this year," Wynn said. From its earliest days, Christians celebrated Easter, or the anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, annually on a Sunday. Many churches held their celebrations on the Sunday closest to the Jewish Passover, but then a debate arose over which Sunday to celebrate Easter. In 325, the Council of Nicaea decided Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs after the spring equinox, or March 20. "The date of Easter is going to depend on when the full moon hits after the first day of spring. It can be really late, and it can be really early," said John Goodwin, pastor of Hunter Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sikeston. Easter can be as late as April 25 and not earlier than March 22, Goodwin said. "This is a little bit of an oversimplification because it's really not the astronomical full moon, it's the paschal full moon (that determines Easter), and that's determined by a table of golden numbered dates through some mathematical complications and all sorts of layers of complications," Wynn said. Dates of the astronomical full moon could be a couple days off from the actual paschal full moon, Wynn noted. And dates vary among church orthodoxes. Eastern Orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar, which was established by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C., and the Western Christian churches follow the Gregorian calendar, which was created by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The Gregorian calendar graduated to the English-speaking world in the 18th century, Wynn said. "With these two calendars and two separate sets of tables, they come up with totally different Easter calendars that do coincide but are five weeks apart this year," Wynn said. Last year the Eastern Orthodox and the Western churches' Easter Sundays fell on the same day, Wynn noted. "This year the Eastern Orthodox Easter is on April 27 while Passover is on April 20. These are dates that should also be aligned and are far apart this year," Wynn said. Many Internet users have received a forwarded e-mail citing information on the earliness of this Easter. Goodwin said he's seen the e-mail.

"I thought it makes a lot of sense," Goodwin said.

Both Wynn and Goodwin said there's more to Easter than just the dates. "Passover was a feast that included everything from incarnation through death and resurrection of Christ to the gift of the spirit and the gift of spirit is what we came after," Goodwin said. Neither Wynn or Goodwin are bothered by the early Easter date. "I'm OK with it changing around," Goodwin said about Easter's date. "We could be having Easter in the snow. This is all OK with me." Wynn shares the same sentiment. "My church does an observance of Lent and preparations of Easter so by the time Easter arrives, it doesn't matter (to me) when it is. My church has been preparing for it. I'm ready for Easter," Wynn said. And for those who are bothered by the early Easter, it will be back in April next year, Wynn noted. Besides, Wynn said: "It's not when it is but that is."