Why are Easter Sunday and Passover so late in 2022?
By mid-February, North Jersey stores had already rolled out their Easter and the Passover fare, offering a crop of chocolate eggs, marshmallow bunnies, stacks of matzo and kosher cakes.
Apparently they didn’t get the memo.
Passover will not begin until the evening of Friday April 15 of this year. Easter Sunday is unusually late, falling on April 17 for the first time in 62 years.
In a year where disrupted supply chains have seemingly delayed everything, that makes sense: even our holidays will keep us waiting until 2022.
The arrival of Ash Wednesday this week marks the start of the 40-day Lenten season, culminating at Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Easter Sunday is considered a “movable holiday”, which means that its position on the calendar may vary.
christian tradition defines the holidays the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox, the beginning of spring.
It’s a mouthful, but the upshot is that Easter can fall anywhere from March 22 to April 25.
This year the first full moon of spring — the Easter full moon, as Christians call it — arrives on Saturday, April 16, pushing Easter back to the 17th. It’s the first Easter on this date since 1960 and the last since 2019, when the festival fell on April.
According to a tally on the US Census Bureau website, April 25 Easters, the last possible ones, are extremely rare, occurring only 1% of the time over the past 400 years. The previous one happened in 1943, and the next one won’t happen until 2038.
What determines the date of Passover?
Passover, the eight-day period commemorating the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, falls on the same day of the Hebrew calendar each year, the 15th day of the month of Nissan. But the Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles, so it doesn’t stay in sync with the secular 365-day calendar based on the Earth’s path around the sun.
In order to keep the Jewish year aligned with the seasons of the solar calendar, Jews periodically add leap years which include an extra month. This year is one.
Phew. Do you have all that?
Orthodox Easter also comes late
To complicate matters further, the Eastern Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar adopted by Catholic Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Thus orthodox easteralso known as Greek Easter or Pascha, falls on April 24 this year.
From the early days of the Christian church, determining the precise date of Easter has been a source of ongoing argument, said the Reverend Robert Wade, former Camden district president of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in New Jersey.
“On the one hand, the followers of Christ neglected to record the exact date of Jesus’ resurrection,” he said. “From that point on, the matter only became more and more complex.”
Passover and Easter have a close connection, of course: the Last Supper would be a Seder in which Jesus celebrated with his Jewish disciples on the eve of his crucification. But the two events do not always overlap because of these astronomical discrepancies.
This year’s late holiday harvest may require patience, but it offers a boost for businesses, said Menachem Lubinsky, CEO of Brooklyn-based Lubicom Marketing and an authority on the kosher food market.
“Store owners tell me that when the holidays are late, they can breathe,” he said.
Deena Yellin covers religion for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to his work covering how the spiritual intersects with our daily lives, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.