When is the Greek Orthodox Easter?

A lot of half-truths and errors circulate regarding the calculation of the date of Easter. In particular, the difference between the date of Easter in the Western Church and the Orthodox one is often not clear. In any event, to counter the rumours often spread, there is no simple rule according to which, for instance, the two Easter Sunday dates coincide every nth year. So when is Easter, actually?

Definition of the date of Easter

Easter Sunday is by definition the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. This full moon is the “Easter limit” (terminus paschalis, Easter full moon, spring full moon, ecclesiastical full moon/EFM).

The start of spring

According to the Gregorian calendar, spring starts, as is well known, on 21 March but the Orthodox calculation is based on the Julian calendar. And now it becomes interesting: Although spring also starts on 21 March in the Julian calendar, 21 March does not fall on 21 March but currently about 13 days later. In fact, the Julian calendar limps behind the Gregorian one because it ignored the 1582 calendar reform by Pope Gregory VIII. So to be precise, the Greeks use two calendars in parallel, the “normal” Gregorian calendar for the secular sphere (since 21 March is the same day in Berlin and Athens), and the Julian calendar for their Orthodox Easter festival. Finally, it is then up to the full moon whether Easter is nevertheless celebrated at the same time or whether the Greeks do so later.

Easter full moon over Milos
Easter full moon over Milos

Spring full moon / Easter full moon

But it’s still more complicated than that because the difference in Easter dates cannot be explained every year by a different date for the start of spring alone, which is in turn due to the temporal shift between the Gregorian and Julian calendars. In fact, the Orthodox calculation also uses the Julian calendar to determine the phases of the moon. This Orthodox, Julian lunar calendar is also different. It is not identical to the progress of the moon that we can observe in reality in the sky!

Easter dates

  Western Church Eastern Church
2018 1 April 8 April
2019 21 April 28 April
2020 12 April 19 April
2021 4 April 2 Mai
2022 17 April 24 April
2023 9 April 16 April
2024 31 March 5 May
2025 20 April
2026 5 April 12 April
2027 28 March 2 May
2028 16 April


Update 05/20