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The word originally denoted the Jewish festival known in English as Passover , commemorating the Jewish Exodus from slavery in Egypt. Paul states, "Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed";  this refers to the Passover requirement to have no yeast in the house and to the allegory of Jesus as the Paschal lamb. By the Roman period, however, the sacrifices were performed in the mid-afternoon. Josephus, Jewish War 6. Philo, Special Laws 2. This interpretation, however, is inconsistent with the chronology in the Synoptic Gospels. It assumes that text literally translated "the preparation of the passover" in John The early Christians, too, would have celebrated this meal to commemorate Jesus' death and subsequent resurrection. The first Christians, Jewish and Gentile , were certainly aware of the Hebrew calendar. Direct evidence for a more fully formed Christian festival of Pascha Easter begins to appear in the mid-2nd century. Perhaps the earliest extant primary source referring to Easter is a mid-2nd-century Paschal homily attributed to Melito of Sardis , which characterizes the celebration as a well-established one. This is consistent with the celebration of Easter having entered Christianity during its earliest, Jewish, period , but does not leave the question free of doubt. Although he describes the details of the Easter celebration as deriving from local custom, he insists the feast itself is universally observed. Instead, the date for Easter is determined on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the Council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. See also Computus and Reform of the date of Easter. In particular, the Council did not decree that Easter must fall on Sunday. This was already the practice almost everywhere. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar. Because of the day difference between the calendars between and , 21 March corresponds, during the 21st century, to 3 April in the Gregorian Calendar. Easter therefore varies between 4 April and 8 May in the Gregorian calendar the Julian calendar is no longer used as the civil calendar of the countries where Eastern Christian traditions predominate. Also, because the Julian "full moon" is always several days after the astronomical full moon, the eastern Easter is often later, relative to the visible moon's phases, than western Easter. Among the Oriental Orthodox some churches have changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar and the date for Easter as for other fixed and moveable feasts is the same as in the Western church. Computus In , Bede succinctly wrote, "The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter. The full moon referred to called the Paschal full moon is not an astronomical full moon, but the 14th day of a lunar month. Another difference is that the astronomical equinox is a natural astronomical phenomenon, which can fall on 19, 20 or 21 March, while the ecclesiastical date is fixed by convention on 21 March. Their starting point in determining the date of Orthodox Easter is also 21 March but according to the Julian reckoning, which in the current century corresponds to 3 April in the Gregorian calendar. In addition, the lunar tables of the Julian calendar are four days sometimes five days behind those of the Gregorian calendar. The 14th day of the lunar month according to the Gregorian system is figured as the ninth or tenth day according to the Julian. The result of this combination of solar and lunar discrepancies is divergence in the date of Easter in most years see table. Easter is determined on the basis of lunisolar cycles. The lunar year consists of day and day lunar months, generally alternating, with an embolismic month added periodically to bring the lunar cycle into line with the solar cycle. In each solar year 1 January to 31 December inclusive , the lunar month beginning with an ecclesiastical new moon falling in the day period from 8 March to 5 April inclusive is designated as the paschal lunar month for that year. The 14th of the paschal lunar month is designated by convention as the Paschal full moon , although the 14th of the lunar month may differ from the date of the astronomical full moon by up to two days. The Gregorian calculation of Easter was based on a method devised by the Calabrian doctor Aloysius Lilius or Lilio for adjusting the epacts of the moon,  and has been adopted by almost all Western Christians and by Western countries which celebrate national holidays at Easter. This was designed to match exactly the Gregorian calculation. Controversies over the date Main article: Easter controversy A five-part Russian Orthodox icon depicting the Easter story. Eastern Orthodox Christians use a different computation for the date of Easter than the Western churches. The precise date of Easter has at times been a matter of contention. By the later 2nd century, it was widely accepted that the celebration of the holiday was a practice of the disciples and an undisputed tradition. The Quartodeciman controversy, the first of several Easter controversies , arose concerning the date on which the holiday should be celebrated. According to the church historian Eusebius , the Quartodeciman Polycarp bishop of Smyrna, by tradition a disciple of John the Apostle debated the question with Anicetus bishop of Rome. The Roman province of Asia was Quartodeciman, while the Roman and Alexandrian churches continued the fast until the Sunday following the Sunday of Unleavened Bread , wishing to associate Easter with Sunday. Neither Polycarp nor Anicetus persuaded the other, but they did not consider the matter schismatic either, parting in peace and leaving the question unsettled. Controversy arose when Victor , bishop of Rome a generation after Anicetus, attempted to excommunicate Polycrates of Ephesus and all other bishops of Asia for their Quartodecimanism. According to Eusebius, a number of synods were convened to deal with the controversy, which he regarded as all ruling in support of Easter on Sunday. Victor's attempted excommunication was apparently rescinded, and the two sides reconciled upon the intervention of bishop Irenaeus and others, who reminded Victor of the tolerant precedent of Anicetus. Quartodecimanism seems to have lingered into the 4th century, when Socrates of Constantinople recorded that some Quartodecimans were deprived of their churches by John Chrysostom  and that some were harassed by Nestorius. But both those who followed the Nisan 14 custom, and those who set Easter to the following Sunday had in common the custom of consulting their Jewish neighbors to learn when the month of Nisan would fall, and setting their festival accordingly. By the later 3rd century, however, some Christians began to express dissatisfaction with the custom of relying on the Jewish community to determine the date of Easter. The chief complaint was that the Jewish communities sometimes erred in setting Passover to fall before the Northern Hemisphere spring equinox. First Council of Nicaea This controversy between those who advocated independent computations, and those who wished to continue the custom of relying on the Jewish calendar, was formally resolved by the First Council of Nicaea in , which endorsed changing to an independent computation by the Christian community in order to celebrate in common. This effectively required the abandonment of the old custom of consulting the Jewish community in those places where it was still used. Epiphanius of Salamis wrote in the mid-4th century: They passed certain ecclesiastical canons at the council besides, and at the same time decreed in regard to the Passover that there must be one unanimous concord on the celebration of God's holy and supremely excellent day. For it was variously observed by people  That the older custom called "protopaschite" by historians did not at once die out, but persisted for a time, is indicated by the existence of canons  and sermons  against it. Dionysius Exiguus , and others following him, maintained that the Bishops assembled at the Nicene Council had specified a particular method of determining the date of Easter; subsequent scholarship has refuted this tradition. It took a while for the Alexandrian rules to be adopted throughout Christian Europe, however. The 8-year cycle originally employed was replaced by or by the time of Augustalis 's treatise on the measurement of Easter, after which Rome used his year lunisolar calendar cycle until It then switched to an adaptation by Victorius of the Alexandrian rules. From this time, therefore, all discrepancies between Alexandria and Rome as to the correct date for Easter cease, as both churches were using identical tables. Early Christians in Britain and Ireland also used an year cycle. From the 5th century onward this cycle set its equinox to 25 March and fixed Easter to the Sunday falling in the 14th to the 20th of the lunar month inclusive. Churches in western continental Europe used a late Roman method until the late 8th century during the reign of Charlemagne , when they finally adopted the Alexandrian method. Since , when the Catholic Church adopted the Gregorian calendar while the Eastern Orthodox and most Oriental Orthodox Churches retained the Julian calendar , the date on which Easter is celebrated has again differed. The Greek island of Syros , whose population is divided almost equally between Catholics and Orthodox, is one of the few places where the two Churches share a common date for Easter, with the Catholics accepting the Orthodox date—a practice helping considerably in maintaining good relations between the two communities. Reform of the date of Easter The congregation lighting their candles from the new flame, just as the priest has retrieved it from the altar—note that the picture is flash-illuminated ; all electric lighting is off, and only the oil lamps in front of the Iconostasis remain lit. George Greek Orthodox Church , Adelaide. In the 20th century, some individuals and institutions have propounded a fixed date for Easter, the most prominent proposal being the Sunday after the second Saturday in April. Despite having some support, proposals to reform the date have not been implemented. The revised Easter computation that had been part of the original agreement was never permanently implemented in any Orthodox diocese. However, the legislation has not been implemented, although it remains on the Statute book and could be implemented subject to approval by the various Christian churches. The reform was proposed for implementation starting in , but it was not ultimately adopted by any member body. In January , Christian churches again considered the idea of a fixed and unified date of Easter, probably either the second or third Sunday in April. Western vs Eastern dates , in a wider timeframe - The WCC presented comparative data of the relationships: Table of dates of Easter — in Gregorian dates.
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