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Easter 2018: When is it; what is it; why isn't it on the same date every year?

“Hey, do you have any idea when Christmas is?” is not a question you usually hear in late November or early December.

Major holidays are stamped on our calendars, often with little symbols, in case you don't know, for instance, that a turkey means Thanksgiving. 

Easter, however, is different. The date of Easter, when Christians celebrate the risen Christ, is different every year. 

Many factors have contributed to keeping the date a guessing game, but the rolling calendar on Easter is due mainly to astronomy and a group of men who got together in the ancient city of Nicaea to come up with a system of deciding when to celebrate the holiest day in the Christian calendar.

Here is a look at the origins of the remembrance, the reason for the floating date and when Easter will be celebrated this year.

What is Easter?On Easter, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth was a carpenter who became an itinerant preacher at the age of 30. For the next three years, he drew thousands of followers in the relatively small area where he preached. 

When Jewish leaders and Roman officials began to feel threatened by his growing popularity, he was arrested as he came into Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Passover. He stood trial, was found guilty by a crowd and was mocked, beaten and eventually crucified. Followers believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion.

The Old Testament prophecy of a messiah being persecuted, then executed, then resurrected – all for the sins of his followers -- is believed by many to have been fulfilled with Jesus’ death.

Where in the Bible is the story of Jesus’ execution?The story of Jesus’ death appears in all four of the Gospels of the New Testament. You’ll find them in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 18.

When is Easter this year?Easter is on April 1 in 2018.

Why is it on different dates every year?

The answer is not a simple one. In 325 CE,  the Council of Nicaea, a gathering of Christian bishops, decided that there should be a more organized and universal way to decide when Easter would be celebrated. The council decided that the remembrance would be held the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.

The date for the vernal equinox was based on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter is delayed a week.

How early and how late can Easter be celebrated?Easter can come as early as March 22, and as late as April 25 in the Gregorian calendar.

What does the word Easter mean?It could be from the name of the fertility goddess Eostre. It could be from the Norse "eostur" or "eastur," meaning “the season of the growing sun,” or some combination of those terms and others from pagan festivals and ceremonies.

When was Easter first celebrated?It’s not known when the first remembrance of Jesus’ death took place, but there are records of ceremonies beginning in the 2nd century. The celebrations were held around the Jewish Passover each year, a date that was dependent on the vernal equinox.

What are Good Friday and Maundy Thursday?Good Friday commemorates the day on which Jesus was crucified. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, the final meal that Jesus had with his disciples.

How did a bunny become a symbol?No one is really sure about how the Easter Bunny came into being, but, he/she likely is a combination of several ancient harvest festival symbols. says the bunny could have come from the pagan festival of Eostre. Eostre is a goddess of fertility and, because of the rabbit’s reputation for, shall we say, productivity, the animal became the symbol for Eostre.

Historians believe it is likely that the festival with its bunny symbol made its way through Europe and gave birth to the Osterhase, or Oschter Haws – an egg-laying rabbit popular in German fiction. German immigrants brought with them to America the tradition of laying colored eggs as gifts in nests built by children during a spring festival. 

Eventually, the bunny started to bring candy and other gifts with the eggs on Easter morning as a sign of the celebration of new life.

Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt:  5 things to know

It’s hard to call Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt an overnight sensation. After all, she’s been following basketball at Loyola University-Chicago for more than a half century and said she saw the Ramblers win the NCAA title in 1963. But thanks to television, the internet and social media, the 98-year-old nun has become a media darling.

>> Read more trending news

With victories against Miami and Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, the Ramblers are hoping for more spiritual guidance when they face the winner of the Cincinnati-Nevada game in next week’s Sweet 16.

Here are some things you might not have known about Loyola-Chicago’s inspirational leader.

Praying for victory: As the basketball team’s chaplain since 1994, Sister Jean begins every prayer the same way: “Good and gracious God.” But if you’re thinking she does not invoke the deity for a little help to win, think again. “I ask God to be especially good to Loyola so that, at the end of the game, the scoreboard indicates a big ‘W’ for us,” she told The New York Times. She ends every prayer with an emphatic “Go Ramblers.” Judging from some of the shots Loyola-Chicago has been burying during this tournament -- Clayton Custer’s game-winner against Tennessee comes to mind -- these prayers have been answered so far.

She’s a Hall of Famer: Loyola-Chicago inducted Sister Jean into the athletic department’s Hall of Fame in 2017, making her the 173rd member to be enshrined. Born in San Francisco in 1919, Sister Jean played basketball in high school.

Good scouting: Every season, Sister Jean researches the boxscores of upcoming opponents, using her sharp eye for detail to point out flaws in the Ramblers’ next foe. Coach Porter Moser found a manila folder on his desk on his first day as coach, according to Sister Jean had compiled a scouting report on the Ramblers to help the new coach.

“She lights up every room she goes into.” Moser told the Times. “She’s always smiling. She has an energy about herself. I connect with that.”

She has her own bobblehead: Loyola-Chicago held a bobblehead promotion night for Sister Jean in 2011.

Super sneakers: Sister Jean has a pair of maroon-and-gold Nike sneakers that she wears during each game. Two names are stitched on the sneaker’s heels: “Sister” on the left heel, and “Jean” on the right.

It’s been quite a ride for Loyola-Chicago, which has knocked off two highly touted program. Now, the Ramblers will have to go against Sister Jean in the Sweet 16: She picked the Ramblers to lose in that round.

Son of the late Rev. Billy Graham shares photo of his father's grave marker

The son of the late Rev. Billy Graham shared a picture of his father’s grave marker Saturday, one day after the reverend was laid to rest at the library that bears his name.

>> Read more trending news

Franklin Graham posted the photo on Twitter. It shows the reverend’s grave marker etched with the words, “Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The grave marker also references scripture -- John 14:6 -- a verse central to Graham's preaching.

The scripture reads, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

>> Thousands from around the world to attend Rev. Graham’s ‘last crusade’

Graham was laid to rest Friday beside the grave of his beloved wife, Ruth. His celebration of life was held under a tent -- a symbol of how he conducted his crusades.

Thousands came to pay their final respects, including President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and dignitaries from around the world.

All five of the reverend's children spoke about their father at the emotional service.

Billy Graham's funeral to be livestreamed Friday: How to watch

The invitation-only funeral for influential evangelist Billy Graham will be livestreamed Friday to allow people he touched with his worldwide ministry to watch.

>> Click here to watch the livestream

Graham died last week at age 99.

Graham will be buried beside his wife, Ruth, at the foot of the cross-shaped brick walkway in the Prayer Garden on the northeast side of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.

>> Billy Graham funeral arrangements announced, public viewing scheduled

Streaming will begin at 10 a.m. EST Friday on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website. The service at the Billy Graham Library is scheduled to begin at noon EST.

About 2,300 invited guests are expected to attend.

>> On Georgia man worked with Billy Graham for nearly five decades

>> On Billy Graham is dead at 99

The funeral is expected to last 90 minutes and will be under a large tent in the main parking lot in front of the library, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

>> Watch more coverage on

The tent serves as a reminder of how Graham’s ministry launched under “The Canvas Cathedral” — a white canvas tent during a 1949 Crusade in downtown Los Angeles, where 350,000 people heard him share the Gospel over a period of eight weeks, according to a release about the funeral.

>> On How Billy Graham fought for civil rights

“It was Mr. Graham’s explicit intent that his funeral service reflect and reinforce the Gospel message he preached for more than 60 years,” said Mark DeMoss, spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

>> Read more trending news  

Franklin Graham will deliver the funeral message. Pastor Donald Wilton and David Bruce will speak at the interment service. Wilton was Graham’s pastor and a close friend in recent years. Bruce served for 23 years as Graham’s executive assistant.

Rev. Billy Graham chose John 14:6 to be placed on his grave marker

Before his death, Rev. Billy Graham chose one of his favorite Scripture verses from the Bible to be placed on his grave marker.

>> Read more trending news

Graham selected John 14:6 and the following inscription to be on his marker:


NOVEMBER 7, 1918 – FEBRUARY 21, 2018


JOHN 14:16

John 14:6 reads, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'”

>> Evangelist Billy Graham dies at 99

The verse was central in Graham’s preaching ministry, and he often referred to it throughout his life.

Graham will be buried next to his late wife, Ruth Bell Graham, who died June 14, 2007.

The couple’s caskets were designed and built by inmates at the nation’s largest maximum security prison, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana.

>> Photos: Billy Graham through the years

While touring the correctional facility after preaching there in 2005, Graham’s son, Franklin, saw caskets being built. Inmates at Angola make caskets for other inmates who cannot afford to buy one. Franklin was moved by this and requested that inmates make caskets for his mother and father.

The caskets are made of plywood and lined with a mattress pad. A wooden cross is nailed to the top of the casket. The Graham family requested no upgrades to the plywood casket, only a few modifications to allow the casket to be transported easily.

Australian priest reacts to Parkland shooting with swipe at US on church marquee 

A rector at a church in Australia sent a pointed message to the United States this week in the wake of the shooting deaths at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, The Washington Post reported.

On the marquee outside the Gosford Anglican Church, the Rev. Rod Bower posted the message, “When will they love their kids more than their guns.”

In a Facebook post of a photo of the billboard, Bower called the United States “a society destroying itself from within,” and “an empire in decline.” 

“A culture that loves guns more than children has no future other than corruption, decline and death,” Bower wrote.

Australia’s gun laws are among the toughest in the world. The country’s Parliament passed strict gun control legislation in 1996, banning the possession, manufacture and sale of semi-automatic weapons except in “exceptional circumstances,” the Post reported.

There has not been a mass shooting in Australia since its gun control laws were passed, the Post reported.

In an interview last week with Radio New Zealand, Bower said the church should make statements about politics.

“Politics is simply the way we human beings organize each other. So yeah, I think everybody ought to be involved in politics,” Bower said. “Religious leaders have a responsibility, I think ethically and morally, to speak into the life of the nation.” 

Bower did say, however, that while he believes the church “always should be involved in politics,” he added that it “should never be involved in government.”

Indiana church posts sign: ‘Stop sexual harassment. Wear clothes’

A sign posted on the marquee outside an Indiana church referencing a solution to sexual harassment has sparked outrage, according to reports.

>> Read more trending news

“Stop Sexual Harassment. Wear Clothes,” was posted outside Emmanuel Baptist Church in Jeffersonville on Sunday, WLKY reported. 

“Pretty much any female regardless of shape, size, color, race, what they look like, what they dress like, have been a victim of some type of sexual harassment in the past,” Opal Lavon, a Jeffersonville resident, told WHAS. “So it's just completely inappropriate and out of line for anybody or any entity to put that message out there.”

The church has been a part of the Jeffersonville community since 1908, according to its Facebook page. The sentiments expressed on the sign, however, angered residents.

“As a mom of two daughters, this infuriated me. As a female myself, this infuriated me. As a human being, this infuriated me," Jeffersonville resident Allyson Condra told WLKY.

"I mean, would you say that to a 6-year-old girl who has been assaulted when they wear overalls and pigtails?" Jeffersonville resident Madilyn Shipman told WLKY.

A neighbor said the message was removed by the pastor just after 9:30 p.m., WLKY reported.

The pastor told WHAS he does not know who put the message up and said he did not approve it.

Pope Francis jokes with cloistered nuns in Peru

Pope Francis drew appreciative laughter Sunday when he addressed cloistered nuns in a Peruvian church, Reuters reported. The nuns were given special permission to leave their convents to see the pontiff speak in Lima.

>> Read more trending news

Francis spoke to the 500 nuns, known as “contemplatives” because they rarely venture away from their convents, on his final day in Peru.

“Seeing you all here an unkind thought comes to my mind, that you took advantage (of me) to get out of the convent a bit to take a stroll,” he said at the Cathedral San Juan Apostol y Evangelista in Lima, drawing roars of laughter from the nuns, Reuters reported.

Francis also urged the nuns to avoid gossiping in their convents, likening it to “terrorism.”

“You know what a gossiping nun is?” he asked. “A terrorist.”

The nuns laughed again, Reuters reported.

“Because gossip is like a bomb. One throws it, it causes destruction and you walk away tranquilly.” Francis said. “No terrorist nuns! No gossip, and know that the best remedy against gossip is to bite your tongue.”

With Pence in audience, Maryland pastor denounces vulgarity attributed to Trump

During Sunday’s service attended by Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, a pastor at a predominantly black church in Maryland denounced racially charged comments that were allegedly made in reference to Haiti and African nations last week by President Donald Trump, WUSA reported Monday.

>> Read more trending news

Dr. Maurice Watson is pastor at the predominantly black Metropolitan Baptist Church in Prince George’s County, a congregation that was founded in 1864.  On Sunday, during his sermon, Watson criticized “a hurtful, dehumanizing, visceral, guttural, ugly adjective, that I care not to repeat in church.”

“I stand today as your pastor to vehemently denounce and reject any such characterizations of the nations of Africa and of our brothers and sisters in Haiti,” Watson said. “And I further say: Whoever made such a statement, and whoever used such a visceral, disrespectful, dehumanizing adjective to characterize the nations of Africa … whoever said it, is wrong. And they ought to be held accountable.”

Members of the congregation stood and cheered, WUSA reported.

Pence did not comment about the sermon. Trump has denied using an expletive during his discussions with members of Congress.

Watson, who has been at Metropolitan since 2014, earned his doctorate in ministry from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, according to the pastor’s biography on the church’s website.

Pope to moms during baptisms: ‘Feel free’ to breastfeed at Sistine Chapel

Pope Francis baptized 34 infants during a ceremony in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, telling their mothers that if the babies became hungry during the two-hour-long ceremony, it was OK to breastfeed them, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news

“If they start performing a concert (by crying), or if they are uncomfortable or too warm or don’t feel at ease or are hungry ... breastfeed them, don’t be afraid, feed them, because this too is the language of love,” the pontiff said while baptizing 18 girls and 16 boys.

Women still face harassment for breastfeeding in public in some countries even though attitudes are changing.

The pope has made similar comments in past ceremonies, Reuters reported. Television pictures showed at least one mother bottle-feeding her child.

The papal baptism is a yearly event restricted to children of employees of the Vatican or the diocese of Rome, Reuters reported. 

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