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Why Orthodox and Catholic Easter Are on Different Dates

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The Orthodox and Catholic Easter are usually set on different dates. Greece is slowly but surely coming closer to the great feast of Greek Orthodox Easter, or Pascha — a religious occasion celebrated here with more gusto than in many other Western Christian countries.

Unlike most European nations, which will celebrate on April 4, Greece will adhere to the date for Orthodox Easter, which falls very late this year — on May 2.

 

Orthodox Churches still use the Julian calendar for Easter, meaning at some times that there can be a weeks-long lag behind the Gregorian.

So, for example, on Mount Athos — an autonomous religious state in northern Greece under the protection of Athens — the residents there are always a number of days behind the rest of Europe.

Due to this difference in the measurement of days, the last time the two great Christian denominations shared a date for the celebration was in 2017.

Calculating the dates of Greek Orthodox and Catholic Easter

 

A complicating factor that caused debates throughout history was finding one single date for Easter and sticking to it. In the early days of their faith, Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ at different times.

It was the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in 325 AD who came up with a uniform way of setting the date.

They decreed that Easter was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox — but always after Passover.

To this day, the Orthodox have stuck with this method of calculating the date of the feast, leading to it usually falling later than in the Western world.

In some years, however, Eastern and Western Easter fall on the same date, and this will happen again in the year 2025.

In 1923, a group of Orthodox churches met in Istanbul to re-examine the calendar issue, eventually adopting a controversial position that important religious dates would follow the more astrologically-accurate Georgian calendar — except Easter.

So, in 2021 the Greek Orthodox will celebrate Good Friday on Friday, April 30 and Easter Sunday, or Pascha, on May 2.

Watch the Greek Reporter’s documentary on the “Rocketwar,” a unique Greek Easter custom which takes place on Chios Island every Easter.