Astronomy Essentials

Why Easter is today

Image shows a basket full of eggs painted with colorful designs.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Steve Price of Draper, UT, USA posted this photo on March 31, 2024. Steve wrote: “These are some of the Ukrainian Pysanky Easter eggs I made. We display them each Easter season.” Thanks, Steve!

When is Easter in 2024?

Here’s the rule for Easter Sunday. It generally falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox.

And so Easter is a movable feast. Its date is different from year to year. The 2024 equinox was March 19-20. It marked an unofficial beginning of spring for the Northern Hemisphere and autumn for the Southern Hemisphere. The first full moon after the March equinox was March 24-25, 2024. Voilà! In 2024, Easter is today.

Note that this is a little different from Eastern Orthodox Easter, which follows the Julian calendar and will fall on May 5 this year.

The Council of Nicaea – first ecumenical council of the Christian church – established the date of Easter when it met in Turkey in the year 325 CE. By ecclesiastical rules set centuries ago, there are 35 dates on which Easter can take place.

The earliest possible date for Easter is March 22 and the latest possible date is April 25.

Easter can never come as early as March 21, though. That’s because, by ecclesiastical rules, the vernal equinox is fixed on March 21. That’s in spite of the fact that in the 21st century (2001 to 2100) every March equinox after the year 2007 will fall on March 19 or March 20.

The last time Easter fell on March 22 (earliest possible date) was in 1818, and the next time will be in 2285. The most recent time an Easter came in March was March 27, 2016.

Give back to astronomy with a donation to! Your gift will support educational resources that teach people of all ages about space exploration and the fascinating facts about our universe.

Easter: Basket of eggs intricately painted in many bright colors.
Easter eggs from the Czech Republic. Image via svajcr/ Wikipedia.

More details and dates

The earliest Easter in the 21st century came in the year 2008 (March 23, 2008). Another March 23 Easter won’t come again until the year 2160.

The century’s latest Easter will occur in the year 2038 (April 25, 2038). After that, it will next fall on April 25 in the year 2190.

See dates of Easter from 1700 to 2299 at Thomas Larsen’s list.

One last detail. Most of us celebrate Easter Sunday via a combination of ecclesiastical rules set long ago and real events in our night sky. But these don’t always coincide. For example, an ecclesiastical full moon doesn’t usually happen on the same date as the full moon you see at night. Ecclesiastical full moons are formally fixed as the 14th day of the ecclesiastical lunar month.

So it’s possible for an ecclesiastical Easter and an astronomical Easter to occur on different dates, as well.

Table with columns for earliest dates of Easter in Gregorian and Julian calendars.
Visit for more about the date of Easter. Chart via Used with permission.

Bottom line: How the date of Easter is determined, and some dates of earliest and latest Easters. Happy Easter to all who celebrate!

March 31, 2024
Astronomy Essentials

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

Editors of EarthSky

View All