The Vernal Equinox and Why Easter is Late This Year

If Easter is late this year, it’s not as late as this Easter Lily that bloomed in my garden in mid-August last year.

The “early church” got it sort of wrong, and that’s why Easter is super late this year.

The Council of Nicaea, which met in modern day Turkey in the year 325, set the rules for observing Easter, along with adopting the Nicene Creed as the official statement of Christian belief. The basic rule is that Easter is observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox.

The catch is that the rule also decrees that the Vernal Equinox, for religious purposes, is deemed to be on March 21.

This year, and actually every year after 2007 in the 21st Century, the astronomical equinox falls on either March 19 or 20, and this year it takes place today, March 20, at 3:58 p.m. MDT. To be fair, in Sydney, Australia, the equinox does fall on March 21 this year.

The first full moon after the equinox will be tonight at 7:43 p.m.

Taking it a step further, an astronomical Easter would, therefore, fall this Sunday, March 24.

Because the Council of Nicaea decreed that the equinox falls on March 21, the next full moon will be April 19, and most churches will celebrate Easter on April 21. Eastern Orthodox churches, which follow the Julian calendar, observe Easter one week later, on April 28.

The earliest possible date for Easter is March 22, and it happens rarely; the last time in 1818. Don’t hold your breath, it won’t happen again until 2285. The latest possible date for Easter is April 25, which last took place in 1943 and will next occur in 2038.

Aside from the public lands rally in January, I’ll confess I haven’t been giving the Montana Legislature as much attention as I should. The Lege, as the late Molly Ivins referred to the Texas legislature, is now in the second half of the 90-day session. As always, some surviving bills have merit and some are stinkers.

A few bills that have merit include HB 517 that would mandate trapper education for all trappers. SB 24 increases funding for trails and outdoor recreation by increasing the voluntary motor vehicle registration fee from six to nine dollars and would generate an additional $1.8 million for trails, state parks and fishing access sites.

Then there are some stinkers.

HB 265, sponsored by Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman), would nullify a state Supreme Court decision, in which the court ruled that easements for fish and wildlife conservation, or public hunting access, approved by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, do not have to go through the Land Board. That ratified a decision by Gov. Bullock, who decided that the governor has the authority to approve such an easement, even if the Land Board had previously voted against it.

Another bill, HB 279, demonstrates how a whole can of worms can be made into law, without any clues as to what the bill is all about. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Brown (R-Thompson Falls) has a one-line provision that states, “Reimbursements for receipts of costs incurred related to the trapping of wolves may be given to ethical trappers licensed pursuant to title 87, chapter 2, part 6.”

It sounds innocuous and vague. The purpose of the bill, however, according to Montana Conservation Voters, is to allow an Idaho-based group to pay trappers for wolves killed. In short, it allows an out of state group to place a bounty on Montana’s wolves.

Another stinker threatens Montana’s waters, already threatened by the Trump Administration’s revision of rules defining “Waters of the United States.” SB 48, sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond (R-Billings) would allow for water pollution dischargers to receive variances for two years before they are required to produce and implement a pollution reduction ban. In other words, it gives polluters permission to poison our streams and rivers two years before the state can do anything about it.

Molly Ivins said it best. “All anyone needs to enjoy the state legislature is a strong stomach and a complete insensitivity to the needs of the people.”

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