Easter, the vernal equinox and the solstices, oh my!

What is the vernal equinox?

What is the vernal equinox and what does it have to do with Easter you ask?  Well, the equinox is the two days that the Sun points directly at the Earth’s equator.  Still what does that mean?  That means that for two days each year, usually around March 20 and September 23, the sun hits the northern and southern hemisphere equally.  On those dates, day and night are roughly the same length of time.  Because the solar terminator (edge of day and night) is perpendicular to the equator.  Confused?  No need!  On we plunge!  Easter is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.  Does that clear it up for you?  No?  Well, it gets worse!

What are the solstices?

There are two solstices, too.  One in Winter and one in Summer.  They are the longest daylight and shortest daylight days of the year.  This is because the planet is tilted either towards or away from the Sun which creates the longest day or night of the year, depending on the season.  On December 22, the sun is farthest South so the daylight hours are the shortest of the year.  Therefore, on the Summer solstice, June 22, the Sun is farthest North.  Hence, the longest day.  In the northern hemisphere, of course.   The solstices also mark the beginning of Winter and the Summer.

So what about Easter?

As we told you before, the date of Easter is determined by the vernal or Spring equinox and the phase of the moon.  The date  roughly coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover.  That holiday commemorates the freedom of the Jewish people from captivity in Egypt.  The dates for both of these religious holidays varies each year, but both are important, and come in early Spring.

We sincerely hope the we have helped clear all this confusion up for you!

Happy Easter!