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Why is Passover in March and Easter in April this year?

Written by Dianna Wiebe on .

This year Passover is celebrated a week before Easter, but why? In order to understand why this is happening, we need to look at how the holidays were established and changes that have occurred in history that contributed to these holidays being celebrated a week apart this year.


Passover was instituted by God before the children of Israel left Egypt. God spoke to Moses and established a new calendar for the children of Israel.

Exodus 12:1-2

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,  “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.

Exodus 13:4

On this day you are going out, in the month Abib.

The month of Abib later renamed Nissan, occurs in the spring.

A New Calendar

Right before God spoke to Moses about the calendar, He had sent nine plagues on Egypt and was preparing to send a tenth. In order to protect His people, He gave Moses specific instructions to give to the children of Israel and anyone wanting to obey.

The instructions were recorded in Leviticus 23. In addition to Passover instructions, God also gave instructions for the Sabbath and six other biblical festivals. Four of seven biblical holy days take place in the spring or early summer, the last three take place in the fall. On the first Passover, Nisan 14, God delivered the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. Every year after that, the children of Israel were instructed to remember these events.

Jesus and Passover

Fast-forward to the first century. When Jesus was 12 years old. He and His family traveled to Jerusalem to remember the first Passover with special events in Jerusalem. Scripture tells us that Jesus continued to celebrate Passover as an adult. On the last Passover of Jesus’ life, He died for us!

After the death of Jesus, new believers not only celebrated Passover but also celebrated the resurrection the Resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. Although the early church continued to celebrate Passover, things changed in the third century.

The Separation

After the death of Jesus, new Gentile believers began to celebrate Passover but now they also celebrated their deliverance from sin and new life in Jesus the Messiah. The early church began as a sect within Judaism and consisted mainly of Jewish believers. By the end of the first century, many Gentiles had joined Jewish believers in the early church. It did not take long for schisms to form for many religious and political reasons. By the third century, Judaism and Christianity were viewed as two separate religions.

However, many early Christians still celebrated both Passover and the Resurrection. At the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, it was ruled that the Resurrection would be celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. The calendar used at this time of this ruling was the Julian calendar and the date on this calendar for Easter was set for March 21.

Passover or Easter

The word Easter is likely a transliteration of the Hebrew word Pesach and the Greek word Pascha. The word was borrowed from the German language in which it means new life or resurrection. Not only did the name change but also the date of celebration.

Three Calendars = Three Dates

In 1582 the modern calendar, the Gregorian calendar, was adopted. This caused problems for dating Easter.

The Eastern Church continued to use the Julian calendar and they will celebrate Easter on May 2, 2021.

Protestant and Catholic churches celebrate Easter on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox, unless that date is a Sunday, then the date is delayed one week. This year the Protestants and Catholics will celebrate Easter on April 4, 2021.

Jewish Passover: One the biblical calendar, Passover is on March 27, 2021.

Your Family

In the two millennia since the death of Jesus, believers have gone from celebrating Passover and the Resurrection within days of each other to celebrating them based on differing calendars.

This year on March 27th, our family will come together again to celebrate the first Passover and remind ourselves of the first Passover and of the fact that Jesus is the final Passover lamb that was slain for us. On April 4th, our family will be celebrating the Resurrection with our fellow believers.

How will your family celebrate this year? Will you do Easter or Passover or both?

P.S. If you are looking for an Easter study, we recommend The Resurrection or  Moses and the Exodus.

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