Why are there different dates for Easter and why is this important to sheep/goat producers?


Easter is one of the primary holidays that drives the demand for sheep and goats, especially lambs. It is an annual festival observed throughout the Christian world. Easter recognizes the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Unlike Christmas, which has a fixed date (December 25), Easter is a “movable feast. However, it is always held on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 (in the West). The date fluctuates because it depends on the moon. Easter is the Sunday after the paschal full moon, the first full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox.

In the West, the Gregorian calendar is used to determine the date of Easter. In the East, the Julian calendar is used. There is a 13-day difference in the calendars. The Eastern Orthodox Church also applies a formula so that Easter always falls after Passover.

In some years, Easter and Western Easter share the same date (e.g., 2017). In other years, the date of Eastern (or Orthodox) Easter is 1, 4, or 5 weeks later than Western (or Roman) Easter. This year (2021), (Western) Easter falls on April 4, while (Eastern) Orthodox Easter isn’t until May 2.

There have been several attempts, including a recent one by a Vatican Cardinal, to arrive at a fixed date for Easter; none have come to fruition.

The demand for lamb/goat usually increases prior to Easter, especially Eastern Orthodox Easter, since Orthodox Christians tend to be more loyal consumers of lamb than non-Orthodox (Catholics and Protestants). While Orthodox Christians come from many different countries and represent many different nationalities (it is the majority religion in Eastern Europe), Greeks are the most common, which is why we often call Orthodox Easter, “Greek Easter.” Greeks love lamb!

Demand for lambs/kids at Easter time is generally for a young, light weight, milk-fed animal: < 60 lbs. (lighter for kids). Older, heavier lambs/kids may also bring premium prices at the time of Easter, due to the limited supply in the spring. In fact, Easter is usually a good time to market any sheep/goats, as religious demand coincides with a lower supply of sheep/goats.

Covid-19 was particularly devastating to the lamb market (particularly commodity lambs) in 2020, as its onset coincided with the Easter market for lamb. In the commodity market, Western Easter plays a more significant role than Orthodox Easter.


Additional reading
Calculating the Easter Date
Orthodox Easter: Why are there two Easters?
What is Orthodox Easter? Learn about its customs, greetings, and foods