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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.

Exit poll: Putin wins re-election in landslide

Vladimir Putin earned a convincing victory in Sunday’s presidential election in Russia, winning 73.9 percent of the vote as he was re-elected to his fourth term, CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news

A state-run exit poll revealed the results, which was not a surprise, CNN reported. Pavel Grudinin was second with 11.2 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll that was conducted bt the Russia Public Opinion Research Center.

Putin will serve another four years as president.

The exit polls are not final and official results are expected later Sunday, CNN reported.

Kathmandu plane crash: At least 50 dead, several injured, officials say

A passenger plane caught fire, then crashed while landing at Nepal’s Kathmandu airport Monday.

 >> PHOTOS: Kathmandu plane crash kills dozens, Nepal police say

>> Read more trending news 

Greek officials vow action after soccer team owner enters pitch with gun 

Sports officials in Greece are investigating the actions of one team owner, who apparently was carrying a gun when he charged onto the pitch to protest a disputed goal at the end of Sunday’s Greek Super League match, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news

Greece’s sports minister said Monday he was considering sanctions against Ivan Savvides, the owner of soccer team PAOK and one of the country’s richest men. Photographs and video footage showed Savvides, with what appeared to be revolver strapped to a holster on his waist, trying to intervene in the closing moments of a home match against rival AEK of Athens, Reuters reported.

After Fernando Varela scored from a header in the 89th minute, putting PAOK ahead 1-0, the referee signaled a score but then disallowed it for offside, ESPN reported. Savvides walked onto the pitch twice to protest the call. The first time he was wearing an overcoat; the second time, his coat was off and his holster was in plain view, Reuters reported. Savvides did not draw a weapon from the holster.

The goal was eventually allowed to stand and PAOK was awarded a 1-0 win, ESPN reported.

AEK officials claimed Savvidis threatened the referee during his trip onto the pitch.

"We suddenly saw a man on the pitch with bodyguards and everyone started saying it was the PAOK president and he went first to the referee and then to our bench and started threatening everyone," AEK Athens coach Manolo Jimenez told Radio Marca.

"We didn't fear for our lives initially, but then, when I saw the photographs of the gun, you think to yourself, 'What if he does something crazy and pulls it out?' It's true that initially we didn't know that he had a gun on his belt, but that could be a small thing as he could have authorization to carry one, but what isn't normal is that a president jumps onto the pitch to protest and threatens a referee.”

Images of “persons entering sports grounds armed” harm PAOK and soccer in general, Greek Deputy Culture and Sports Minister Georgios Vassiliadis said in a written statement Monday.

“Such extreme phenomena call for bold decisions,” Vassiliadis said.

Photos: Kathmandu plane crash kills dozens, Nepal police say

A police official says dozens of people were killed when a plane crashed as it landed at the Kathmandu airport in Nepal.

Jimmy Carter on North Korea: 'It's good we're going to be talking to them'

Former President Jimmy Carter said Sunday that “while I don’t agree with everything that President Trump has done, I think it’s good that he’s decided to go” meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“If we could avoid a nuclear confrontation with North Korea, that would be a wonderful achievement,” Carter, 93, told his Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. “It’s good we’re going to be talking to them.”

>> Read more trending news 

Thursday’s announcement that Trump would accept Kim’s invitation to meet has been controversial in some quarters. It was especially timely where Carter was concerned.

“I had made arrangements last week with the White House to have some experts come down and give me an up-to-date briefing on what’s going on concerning North Korea,” he said. “They came down the day that Kim Jong Un invited Trump to come over. So we had a lot to talk about.”

>> On Jimmy Carter to start cutting back on teaching Sunday school

Carter, who recently announced that he would start cutting back on his Sunday school duties, broke some happy news to the class about his wife’s health. Rosalynn Carter, 90, had surgery three weeks ago at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to remove “troubling scar tissue” from a portion of her small intestine. 

>> On ‘I was deathly afraid.’ Jimmy Carter shares details of wife Rosalynn’s surgery

“She’s been very, very ill,” Carter said about his wife of 71 years, who normally attends Sunday school and the worship service at Maranatha, then stays afterwards to pose for photos with him and hundreds of visitors. Now, though, he said with a smile, “She’s doing fine. As a matter of fact, she just phoned me awhile ago to finally say she’s on her way home. She’ll be there when we get (back from church).”

>> On A 70th wedding anniversary interview with the Carters

Still, Carter suggested, the situation had been a wake-up call of sorts for the famously busy former first couple.

“We’ve said this before and nobody believed us,” Carter said to knowing chuckles from some in the packed church. “We’ll withdraw from some of the things we’ve been doing.”

State Department warns of 'security threat' in Mexico's popular Playa del Carmen

The State Department on Wednesday issued a security alert for a popular Mexican resort city, warning Americans to exercise caution in Playa del Carmen and to buy travel insurance two weeks after an explosion on a tourist ferry injured more than two dozen people.

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Officials told The Associated Press on Thursday that the alert was not related to the explosion, which left 19 Mexicans and at least five Americans injured. Officials did not specify what kind of threat prompted the alert.

"Clearly, there is a threat," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday at a news briefing, according to CNN. "We're making Americans aware of that threat so that Americans can protect their own safety and the safety of their families."

In the alert issued Wednesday, officials said U.S. government employees were “prohibited from traveling to Playa del Carmen until further notice.” The U.S. consular agency in the city “will be closed until further notice.”

Playa Del Carmen is popular among tourists. Its beaches and resorts are often a draw for Americans visiting Mexico for spring break, The Washington Post reported.

Canadian officials issued their own travel advisory Thursday, warning Canadians to avoid tourist ferries traveling in the region in the wake of last month’s explosion and the discovery last week of an explosive device on another ferry out of Playa del Carmen.

Officials in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Playa del Carmen, said in a statement obtained by the AP that despite the warnings, the city is safe.

“We do not know why the U.S. government decided to emit this alert,” officials with the state government said, according to the AP. “All tourism and economic activity in Playa del Carmen continues in a normal manner.”

Meghan Markle baptized into Church of England

Meghan Markle was baptized and confirmed into the Church of England during a private ceremony Tuesday, The Daily Mail reported.

>> Read more trending news

The 45-minute service was conducted at the Chapel Royal by Justin Welby. the Archbishop of Canterbury, and also was attended by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Daily Mail reported.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince William did not attend, the newspaper reported.

As part of the ceremony, holy water from the River Jordan was poured on Markle's head, the Daily Mail reported.

After her baptism, Markle was confirmed, which means she will be able to receive Holy Communion when she marries Prince Harry on May 19, the Daily Mail reported.

Markle, 36, attended a Roman Catholic high school but was brought up Protestant, CNN reported. She did not need to convert in order to marry the prince, but she announced when she became engaged that she would.

St. Patrick's Day 2018: How did it get started; why corned beef and cabbage; who is Patrick?

Start looking for shamrocks, get that “Kiss Me I’m Irish” T-shirt out of the drawer, and fire up the Crock Pot for corned beef and cabbage because March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day.

>> Read more trending news 

There will be celebrations honoring Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, by more people around the world than could fit on the island to which he's credited with bringing Christianity.

Here's a quick look at St. Patrick's Day and everything green that goes with it.

What is St. Patrick's Day?

The first celebration of Patrick's life was an annual religious holiday held on March 17, the day it is believed that he died. The celebrations were feast days in honor of Patrick, who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century.

Who was St. Patrick?

Patrick was believed to have born in Roman Britain (Scotland), the son of a wealthy family. His name was Maewyn Succat. He was kidnapped when he was 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped after, he said, God told him to run from his captors to the shore, where a boat would be waiting for him to take him back to Scotland. He fled, the boat was there and he headed home, but he didn't stay.

He returned to Ireland as a priest using the name Patrick. He worked there for the rest of his life to convert the Irish, who, at the time, practiced Celtic polytheism (Celtic paganism).

While he was never officially canonized, his followers regarded him as a "saint in heaven," thus he received a feast day from the Roman Catholic Church and the title of "saint."

How is it celebrated?

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in various parts of the world. Until the 1970s, St. Patrick's Day was a religious celebration in Ireland, and the pubs in the country were closed.

Laws were passed then to open up the pubs for celebrations on March 17, and soon after, the country's leaders decided to market the holiday, highlighting Irish culture for tourism purposes.

The observance of St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, alone, has grown to a massive multiday celebration where around 1 million people take part.

In the United States, millions celebrate the holiday, whether they are of Irish descent or not. Two of the largest celebrations are in New York -- which hosts a five-hour parade -- and Chicago -- where city officials dye the river green.

Many people wear something green on that day, signifying a link to the color most associated with Ireland. Others lift a pint (or two) of beer at a pub or try corned beef and cabbage or Irish stew.

About that tradition of celebrating the day by eating corned beef and cabbage -- there's nothing more Irish than that, right?

About that tradition, well, we need to talk. Truth be told, corned beef and cabbage is about as Irish as a McDonald's Shamrock Shake.

Back in the day, people in Ireland would have celebrated the feast day with a meal of Irish stew and soda bread, or maybe a meal of pork and potatoes, which was inexpensive.

What has become a tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage to celebrate St. Patrick's Day likely grew out of the fact that those foods were less expensive for immigrants who came to America. They substituted beef for pork and cabbage for potatoes.

OK, at least the snake story is true, right?

Sorry, but that's a bit of blarney, too. There were no snakes in Ireland, so Patrick didn't really have anything to drive out of the country, with the exception of the druids.

Some think the story that Patrick drove the snakes into the sea was really an allegory for him driving the pagan practices out of the country to make room for Christianity. Others say it just makes for a good bit of gab.


Say what?

Let's say you want to impress your friends and throw out a few Gaelic phrases on Friday.

You will probably want to start with "Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!" That means "Happy St. Patrick's Day to you!"

It's pronounced: lah leh PAH-drig SUN-uh gwitch.

Native Irish speakers would shorten it to "Lá 'le Pádraig," a more casual way of offering good wishes on St. Patrick's Day. It's pronounced: lah leh PAH-drig.

If you want to impress your friends in a pub, you might want to throw out, "Pionta Guinness, le do thoil," or "A pint of Guinness, please." It's pronounced: Pyunta Guinness leh duh hull.

St. Patrick's Day by the numbers

  • There are 450 churches in the United States named after St. Patrick. Perhaps the most famous is in New York City.

  • It takes 40 pounds of dye to turn the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day.

  • According to the U.S. Census, 650,000 babies are named Patrick in a year.

  • A little more than 20 percent of the residents of Massachusetts say they are Irish; 20.6 of those in New Hampshire claim Irish ancestry.

  • According to Wallet, the value of a leprechaun's pot of gold is $1.22 million. That's 1,000 gold coins weighing 1 ounce each.

  • A crystal bowl of shamrocks is given by the president of Ireland to the president of the United States each St. Patrick's Day.

  • There are 16 places in the United States named Dublin.

  • 34.7 million U.S. residents claim to be of Irish descent.

  • 83 percent of those surveyed say they intend to wear green on St. Patrick's Day.

Sources:; Wiki How; Quora; National Geographic; Time and

Google celebrates International Women's Day with interactive doodle

Have you peeped at Google? It’s all about International Women’s Day. 

>> Read more trending news 

The search engine, which sometimes uses its homepage to honor important figures and events, is observing the occasion one day early with some interactive animation. 

Celebrated around the world every March 8, the holiday recognizes women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements. It also serves as a call to action to accelerate gender parity.

When you visit Google, you can press the play button to dig through the personal narratives of a dozen women artists from around the global. The subjects, who were specially selected by the platform, shared their diverse experiences with visual drawings.

“Each story represents a moment, person, or event that has impacted their lives as women,” the site wrote in a statement. “While each artist tells a unique story, the themes are universal, reminding us of how much we often have in common.”

The works have been translated across more than 80 languages to inspire as many people as possible. And Google is encouraging others to post about their unique journeys using the hashtag #HerStoryOurStory on social media. 

Check out the doodle archive to see the animation, and take a look at the full list of participants below.

1. Anna Haifisch – “Nov 1989”

2. Chihiro Takeuchi – “Ages and Stages”

3. Estelí Meza – “My Aunt Blossoms”

4. Francesca Sanna – “The Box”

5. Isuri – “Aarthi the Amazing”

6. Karabo Poppy Moletsane – “Ntsoaki’s Victory”

7. Kaveri Gopalakrishnan – “Up on the Roof”

8. Laerte – “Love”

9. Philippa Rice – “Trust”

10. Saffa Khan – “Homeland”

11. Tillie Walden – “Minutes”

12. Tunalaya Dunn – “Inwards”

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