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The Easter Bunny Comes Early This Year -- But Why?

Easter is Sunday, much earlier than usual this year, and many people are scratching their heads. Isn't it still cold out? Didn't we just celebrate Christmas?

As it turns out, there's a very simple explanation, and it has nothing to do with the church, a vast religious conspiracy or even a complex marketing scheme on the part of candy-makers and egg farmers.

It's the moon.

Easter always comes on the Sunday after the first, or Paschal, full moon following the first day of spring.

Spring arrives on Thursday and the moon will be full on Friday, the earliest Paschal moon since 1913. And that means Easter, the Christian holiday marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is this Sunday. It won't come this early again for another 220 or so years.

"It’s a scientific thing," FOX News religion analyst Father Jonathan Morris said. "Easter is always based on the Hebrew tradition of being able to detect a day for the celebration of Passover."

The Christian calendar generally mirrors the Jewish one, and Passover and Easter are usually very close together. But that isn't always the case because of the Christian calendar's strict adherence to the lunar cycle.

Passover follows both the lunar and solar cycles and is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month in the Jewish calendar year. So this year, the eight-day Jewish holiday marking the liberation of Israelites from slavery falls about a month after Easter, beginning on April 19 and going through the 26th.

Morris said Christian traditions leading up to Easter, their holiest holiday — including Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Good Friday — have gone on as usual this year. It's just that some churchgoers have felt a little blindsided by the timing.

"It doesn't change any of the liturgical celebrations. They're all still present," he said. "But people say, 'Oh my gosh, I had a hard time preparing for this spiritually. It feels crunched after Christmas.'"

Faithful Christians aren't the only ones having to adjust to the fast-approaching Easter holiday. That famous bunny that hides eggs and brings chocolates to children around the world in a symbolic tradition commemorating the start of spring had to be extra organized this year, too.

It could be worse. In 1818, Easter arrived on the earliest possible day: March 22.

Morris doesn't think the timing is so off that people will forget about Easter altogether, however.

"We'll just remind people that now is the time to prepare for these holy days," he said. "They're all still there."