Easter, Ramadan, and Passover: Why Are the Dates Always Changing?

Easter, Ramadan, and Passover: Why Are the Dates Always Changing? April 9, 2023

Easter, Ramadan, and Passover are a time for worship
Passover, Easter, and Ramadan worship differently. Image: mleonascimento0, Pixabay, free to use under the Content License.

There are several faiths lumped beneath the “Abrahamic” umbrella, but three religions ascend far above the others: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, despite their shared roots, there are key differences in how the Mighty Trinity honour their separate beliefs.  One rich example is their annual celebrations, such as Passover, Easter, and Ramadan.

Interestingly, once every 30 years or so, these holidays occur simultaneously. 2023 is one of those occasions. But how is this possible? Why are they not on the same date every year? And what exactly are their traditional differences? Let’s take a look!


Israel's Escape from Egypt
Israel’s Escape from Egypt. Image: public domain.

Passover History

Passover is a Jewish observation. It is a celebration of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt, according to the Hebrew Bible (Torah and Old Testament).

In the Book of Exodus, God (aka Yahweh) is angry with the Egyptian Pharaoh for enslaving the Israelites. To retaliate, He attacked Egypt with ten plagues. On God’s menu of devastation, we find water turning to blood, boils festering on the skin, and swarms of locusts eating everything. But none were as harrowing as plague #10: the death of each family’s firstborn son.

To protect the Israelites, Moses instructed them to mark their doors with lamb’s blood. The Angel of Death then passed over those bloodied homes and ultimately murdered the Pharaoh’s son. The Egyptian leader finally got the message and ordered the Israelites to leave.

In their rush to depart, the Israelites did not have time to let their bread rise. The Jewish community calls this food matzah or “unleavened bread“, meaning unrisen without yeast fermentation. Subsequently, Passover acknowledges the history of abstaining from leavened foods, which are known as chametz (such as pasta, cookies, or cereal).

Passover Customs

Passover traditions include:

  • Cleaning the house by candlelight to remove all chametz before Passover Seder (the first night of the holiday)
  • Eating matzah on the Seder
  • Retelling the Book of Exodus text about the Israelites’ liberation
  • Consuming four cups of wine and pouring an extra one for Elijah the Prophet

Passover Date

Passover commences on the eve of the 15th day of Nisan. In Hebrew calendars, Nisan is the first month of spring, when the barley ripens. In 2023, it occurred on March 23rd. The holiday lasts for eight days unless you live in Israel, as then it is only seven.


Jesus Christ crucified on the cross.
The Crucifixion by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Easter History

Easter is a Christian festival. It is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, according to the Christian Bible’s New Testament.

As told by the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the Jewish council considered Jesus a troublemaker. He was arrested and charged with various crimes, which included the violation of Sabbath law and practising sorcery. They sentenced him to die by crucifixion, and then he was buried, only to rise from the dead three days later.

This process is recognised as the Great Three Days, marked by Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion. Holy Saturday follows, marking the end of Lent when Christians complete their 40 days of chosen abstinence to recall Jesus’ fasting in the desert. Finally, Easter Sunday marks the joy of the resurrection. These form part of the Holy Week.

Easter Customs

Easter traditions primarily revolve around eggs, the ancient symbol of rebirth. Most famous customs include:

  • Painting or dying hard-boiled eggs
  • Partaking in a chocolate egg hunt
  • Enjoying hot cross buns (spiced buns with crosses on them)

The Easter Bunny has no direct connection with Jesus beyond marketing for the holiday.

Easter Date

What’s fascinating is that Jesus’ Last Supper was a Passover meal, meaning the two narratives are profoundly interlaced. However, their dates are not guaranteed to overlap, as the lunar calendar determines Easter festivities. More specifically, Easter takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. In 2023, Easter falls on April 9th.


Image: mleonascimento0, Pixabay, free to use under the Content License.
A woman praying during Ramadan. Image: mleonascimento0, Pixabay, free to use under the Content License.

Ramadan History

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is roughly 11 days shorter than the Gregorian version. This period honours the Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation from Angel Gabriel in 610 CE.

According to Islamic teachings, Muhammad was nearly 40 when he grew concerned with the behaviour of the people of Mecca, his home city. To seek answers, he spent time praying in the nearby Mount Hira. Here, Angel Gabriel delivered the initial verses of the Quran. As Muhammad was illiterate, the Quran is studied as his most remarkable miracle.

Ramadan Customs

To observe this sacred occasion, Muslims must fast from eating, starting at dawn and ending at sunset. This absence is considered an act of religious devotion and self-discipline. It is an obligatory Muslim practice as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. That said, these rules kindly do not apply to the elderly as well as those travelling, breastfeeding, diabetic, or menstruating.

Other customs associated with Ramadan include:

  • Abstaining from drinking, smoking, and sexual activity
  • Eating a predawn meal (Suhur) and a fast-breaking evening meal (Iftar)
  • Increasing prayer and Quran studies
  • Giving to charity

Ramadan Date

Ramadan starts and ends with the sighting of the crescent moon, lasting the twenty-nine to thirty days between. In 2023, this event commenced on March 22nd.


Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have numerous differences beyond these religious celebrations. Some of these discrepancies have caused fierce conflicts throughout the ages. However, it is essential to note that each faith agrees upon and reveres the identical One God. This means their worship has far more in common than any of the minor disparities above.

Additionally, their scriptures teach peace, adhering to the golden rule: treat others as you would like others to treat you. Hence, these dates should be cherished as an opportunity to pull cultures together and praise the uniqueness of human development.

“That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.”
– Judaism (Shabbat, 31a)

“Love your neighbour as yourself.”
– Christianity (Matthew, 22:39-40)

“None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.”
– Islam (Hadith, 13)

About Jared Woods
Born in South Africa and now homeless as a nomadic something or other, Jared Woods does whatever he wants. He has authored numerous books, including the spiritual philosophy texts known as the "Janthopoyism Bible". Follow Jared on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @legotrip You can read more about the author here.

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