What Day Is Easter in 2023—and Why Does This Holiday Fall on a Different Day Each Year?
Easter's ever-changing date isn't as random as you might think
Even if you know what Easter is all about, you might not know when it is. After all, while Christmas reliably falls on December 25 every year, Easter hops around, so to speak. Yes, it’s always on a Sunday, but sometimes that Sunday is in March and it’s freezing. Sometimes it’s in late April, and everyone can get decked out in their holiday best without bundling up under a bulky winter coat. So what day is Easter in 2023, and why does the date of this holiday change each year?
We have the answers to both of those questions—to satisfy your curiosity and to help you plan your favorite Easter traditions, from creating the perfect Easter baskets filled with the best candy to hosting a big family dinner. Once you’re up to speed, get to the bottom of another paschal mystery: the origin of the Easter bunny.
What day is Easter in 2023?
In 2023, Easter falls on April 9. But depending on the year, it can occur on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25. Looking ahead, here are the dates for Easter for the next seven years:
- March 31, 2024
- April 20, 2025
- April 5, 2026
- March 28, 2027
- April 16, 2028
- April 1, 2029
- April 21, 2030
FYI, these are the restaurants and stores that will be open on Easter this year—just in case you need a last-minute Easter stuffer or want to make an Easter brunch reservation.
What is the rarest date for Easter?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, which looked at Easter dates between 1600 and 2099, the rarest date for Easter is March 24. Within those nearly 500 years, the holiday occurs only twice on that date. And here’s another interesting fact: The last time Easter landed on March 24 was in 1940—and that won’t happen again until 2391.
On the other hand, the most common dates for Easter are March 31 and April 16. Easter has landed or will land on each of those dates 22 times during that 500-year period.
Why is Easter always on a Sunday?
One thing about Easter never changes: the fact that it’s on a Sunday. That’s because the holiday is structured around Jesus’s death and resurrection. According to Christian dogma, Jesus died on what we now call Good Friday and rose from the dead a few days later, on Sunday, before ascending into heaven.
But … which Sunday? That’s where things get tricky and why we’re always left wondering, What day is Easter this year? All of these events happened around 2,000 years ago, and we don’t have an exact date. We do, however, have a general time frame, and that is the Jewish feast of Passover.
Why does Easter change every year?
The date of Passover changes every year, due to the lunar cycle on which the Jewish calendar is based, and Easter is linked to that holiday to some degree. But it’s more complicated than that. The Christian calendar is actually tied to the solar calendar, and the timing of the major holidays has to do with the seasons and with light, explains Natalia Imperatori-Lee, PhD, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College. This, she says, is why Christmas occurs “right around the winter solstice, after the longest night, when ‘the Light of the World’ arrives—get it?”
Yep, you read that right: It’s not because Jesus’s birthday was actually on December 25.
Now, back to our spring holiday. Easter’s exact date may seem arbitrary, but it’s always on the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, and that can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25. “Why the full moon? Maximum light! The resurrection is about maximum light—symbolically, of course,” explains Imperatori-Lee. “So that Sunday, shortly after the equinox [which has 12 hours of light and 12 of darkness], plus the fullness of the moon [lots of light], means maximum light—the perfect day for the holiest feast in the Christian year.”
The decision as to when to celebrate Easter—and whether or not it should coincide with Passover—was a topic hashed out between bishops at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. A more standardized calendar, the Gregorian one, was established in the 16th century under Pope Gregory XIII, and that’s the internationally accepted civic calendar that most of the world follows today. Orthodox Christians, however, still follow the Julian calendar, the previous one created by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, meaning that Easter falls between April 4 and May 8 for them.
Other holidays that shift with Easter
While Easter itself is one day, it’s part of a larger holy celebration for Christians. Once Easter is set, the other “moveable feasts” shift around it. For example, Holy Thursday (when the Last Supper was celebrated) and Good Friday (the day that Jesus died) are always the Thursday and Friday before Easter. Palm Sunday (the day that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem) is the Sunday before Easter, which is also the last Sunday of Lent.
Then there’s Lent itself, kicked off by Ash Wednesday for the 40 days (not including Sundays) preceding Easter.
Does the timing of Easter have anything to do with the pagan springtime holidays?
No. But like many other Christian celebrations, this one has likely co-opted some pagan springtime traditions over the years. Eggs may have represented fertility and birth, and they “may have become part of the Easter celebration in a nod to the religious significance of Easter—i.e., Jesus’s resurrection or rebirth,” History.com notes.
While bunnies may also have been associated with procreation, historians believe this tradition likely came from German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s and “transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called ‘Osterhase’ or ‘Oschter Haws.’ Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs,” according to History.com. Eventually, the egg-laying bunny morphed into one that simply brought treats to children on Easter. If you’re continuing that tradition, you’ll want to check out these Easter basket ideas for kids—and now that you know what day Easter is, you won’t be scrambling at the last minute to put one together!
- Statista: “What’s the Most Frequent Easter Date in 500 Years?”
- Natalia Imperatori-Lee, PhD, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College
- Washington Post: “Why isn’t Easter celebrated on the same date every year?”
- History.com: “Easter 2023”
- History.com: “Easter Symbols and Traditions”