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Why Orthodox and Catholic Easter Are on Different Dates

Orthodox easter date
Greek Orthodox and Western Easter will never coincide after 2700. Public Domain/Wikipedia

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 Easter on April 9th, Greece will adhere to the date for Orthodox Easter, which falls one week later on April 16th.

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

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.

The gap in time between the celebration of Easter for the two denominations will be getting wider and wider.

As a result of this widening gap, from 2700 onward, the celebration of Easter for the Greek Orthodox Church and the Western Christian churches will never coincide again.

Altogether, in the whole of the 21st century, the celebration of Easter will be held on the same day 31 times, but during every coming century, this will happen more and more rarely.

The last time Easter celebrations will coincide is estimated to be in 2698. From then on, Orthodox and western Christians will never celebrate the Resurrection of Christ together again.

Calculating the dates of Greek Orthodox and Catholic Easter

orthodox western easter vs Catholic Easter date
Some of the symbols of Greek Easter, or Pascha. Credit: ManosHacker/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

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

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 the celebration of Orthodox Easter usually falling later than in the Western world.

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

In 1923, a group of Orthodox churches met in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) to re-examine the calendar issue, eventually adopting a controversial position that important religious dates would follow the more astronomically-accurate Gregorian calendar, with the exception of Easter.

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

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